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Bearded Fescue

Vulpia ciliata

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Beaches, fields, gardens, grassland, lawns, roadsides, sand dunes, seaside, wasteland.

Green, no petals
Reddish-green flowers, turning yellowish-grey with age. The flowers appear in panicles. Spikelets have 4 to 10 florets each. Unawned.
The fruit is a caryopsis which is a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit.
Simple, broad, linear, flat or inrolled leaf blades.
Other Names:
Ciliate Fescue, Fringed Fescue.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Vulpia ciliata, also known as fringed fescue, is a small annual grass that is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is characterized by its fine, delicate leaves and its distinctive inflorescence, which has long, fine, ciliate (fringed) awns.

It typically grows to a height of 6-12 inches, and its leaves are blue-green in color. It typically flowers in the spring or early summer and produces small spikelet clusters at the top of the stem. The spikelets are wind-pollinated and are usually produced in the spring or early summer.

Like other vulpia species, it is considered to be a weed of cultivated land, and it is often found in fields, gardens, and along roadsides. It can be a problem in crops such as cereals, vegetables, and ornamental plants. It is not considered to be a valuable forage grass for livestock or wildlife, as it is not considered to be palatable.

Control of Vulpia ciliata can be done by using chemical herbicides, mulching, proper crop rotation, and competition with other plants, also hand pulling or mowing. The infestation can also be controlled by monitoring and removing the plants before they produce seeds, as well as removing weed from the crop rotation fields.


Bearded Fescue (Vulpia ciliata) is a cool-season grass native to Europe that has naturalized in various parts of North America. It is a member of the Poaceae family and is known for its slender, wiry stems that can reach up to two feet in height. The plant has numerous alternate leaves that are up to 10 inches long, and its flowers are spike-like, with small, light-green to purplish florets that bloom in late spring to early summer.

Bearded Fescue prefers dry and sandy soils, which makes it an excellent choice for naturalistic landscaping, rock gardens, and erosion control. Its roots are deep and extensive, making it drought-tolerant and able to withstand periods of intense sunlight. As a result, Bearded Fescue is a popular choice for xeriscaping, which is a landscaping technique that focuses on water conservation and the use of native plants that require less water and maintenance.

One of the most significant benefits of Bearded Fescue is its ability to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. It has an extensive root system that holds the soil together, making it ideal for use in areas where erosion is a concern. Its ability to withstand harsh conditions makes it an excellent choice for re-vegetation and restoration projects. Additionally, Bearded Fescue is a low-maintenance plant that requires very little water or fertilizer once established, making it an ideal choice for busy homeowners or landscapers.

Bearded Fescue is also an important plant for wildlife. Its seeds are a valuable source of food for many bird species, including sparrows, finches, and quail. Additionally, the plant provides habitat for small mammals such as rodents and insects, which in turn attract larger predators like hawks and owls.

Bearded Fescue is a hardy, versatile, and low-maintenance grass that is well-suited for use in naturalistic landscaping, erosion control, and restoration projects. Its deep roots make it an ideal choice for areas prone to erosion, and its ability to withstand drought and harsh conditions makes it an excellent option for xeriscaping. Additionally, its seeds provide a valuable food source for many bird species, making it an important plant for wildlife.

Bearded Fescue is a versatile grass that can be used in a variety of landscaping applications. Its slender stems and graceful appearance make it an attractive addition to meadow plantings, where it can be combined with other wildflowers and grasses for a naturalistic look. It can also be used as a groundcover or as a border plant, providing a low-maintenance alternative to traditional turf grasses.

One of the unique features of Bearded Fescue is its "beard-like" hairs on the edges of its leaves, which give it its common name. These hairs help to protect the plant from grazing animals and insects, and may also help to conserve moisture during periods of drought. The plant's ability to adapt to dry and sandy soils also makes it an excellent choice for use in green roofs, where it can help to retain stormwater runoff and reduce heat island effects.

While Bearded Fescue is generally considered a non-invasive plant, it can spread rapidly in some areas, particularly in disturbed soils or areas where the natural vegetation has been removed. As with any plant, it is important to consider the local conditions and the potential impacts of introducing a new species before planting.

In addition to its landscaping and ecological benefits, Bearded Fescue also has several other uses. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, fevers, and digestive issues. The seeds of the plant have also been used as a source of food by various indigenous peoples, who would grind them into flour and use them to make cakes and porridge.

Bearded Fescue is also sometimes used as a forage crop for livestock. While it is not as productive as some other grasses, it can provide a valuable source of nutrition for animals in areas where other forage options are limited. The plant's deep roots can also help to improve soil health and reduce erosion, which can have long-term benefits for pasture management.

In terms of cultivation, Bearded Fescue is relatively easy to grow from seed. It can be sown in the fall or spring, and will typically germinate within a few weeks. Once established, the plant requires little maintenance, although it may need occasional watering during periods of prolonged drought. Bearded Fescue is also a relatively short-lived plant, with a lifespan of around 2-3 years, so it may need to be replanted periodically in order to maintain a healthy stand.

In conclusion, Bearded Fescue is a versatile and hardy plant that offers a range of benefits for both landscaping and ecological applications. Its ability to stabilize soil, provide habitat for wildlife, and tolerate drought and harsh conditions make it an excellent choice for a wide range of projects, from erosion control to xeriscaping. Whether used in naturalistic meadow plantings, as a forage crop, or in traditional medicine, Bearded Fescue is a plant that is both beautiful and functional.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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