Festuca megalura Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.

Scientific Name: Festuca megalura Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.

Classification: Plantae/ Tracheobionta / Spermatophyta / Magnoliophyta / Liliopsida / Commelinidae / Cyperales / Poaceae / Gramineae / Vulpia C.C. Gmel./ Festuca megalura Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.

<i>Festuca megalura</i> Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.
General Information
Usda SymbolFEMEH
Life CycleAnnual
Growth HabitsGraminoid
Native LocationsFEMEH

Plant Guide

Alternative Names

Rat-tail fescue, foxtail fescue


Erosion Control: Annual fescue has an excellent fibrous root system that provides soil stabilization on natural and man-made disturbed areas. It will provide initial erosion control and as the site improves in condition, will allow climax species to invade. Cover Crop: Annual fescue has proved to be a valuable cover crop in almonds and other crops where a shorter height is required and mowing is frequent. It increases water penetration in problem orchards and provides a self-perpetuating cover. In comparison trials, it took more abuse than Blando brome (Bromus mollis) and produced less residue. Wildlife: Its early green growth provides some value for wildlife food, nesting and good cover in the spring season.


Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e, Use soil moisture sensors to measure the soil moisture of Festuca megalura Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn..,g, threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values), © 2002 James B, Gratiot CalPhotos


Annual fescue is irregularly scattered in the West in wasteland, fields, and overgrazed areas. This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed. Please consult with your local NRCS Field Office, Cooperative Extension Service office, or state natural resource or agriculture department regarding its status and use. Weed information is also available from the PLANTS Web site. Please consult the Related Web Sites on the Plant Profile for this species.


General: Grass Family (Poaceae). Annual fescue is an introduced, short, aggressive, early maturing cool season annual grass with many fibrous roots. It has excellent seedling vigor and emerges in fall very soon after the first rain. It matures seed earlier than most annual grasses, assuring perpetuation. It can tolerate soil problems of acidity, serpentine, and low fertility. This species is native to Asia and Europe. Distribution: This species can be found in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and in several localities on the East Coast. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.


Annual fescue is a drought tolerant grass that will persist and provide good erosion control cover with an annual precipitation of at least 25cm. (10 in.), or on areas receiving extra run-in moisture, and on areas receiving some supplemental irrigation. It has persisted on sites up to 1365 m. (4500 ft) and tolerates highly acid sedimentary soils and acidic mine spoils (pH 4.5). It germinates and grows in low fertility and shallow soils.


The optimum time for seeding is between October 1 and November 15. Loosening the soil surface before seeding and covering lightly produces the best stands. Seed can be hydro-seeded, but best establishment occurs when the seed is in contact with the soil. Recommended seeding rates on critical areas are: broadcast, hydroseeded-3 pounds pure live seed per acre; drilled- 2 pounds pure live seed per acre and depth should be 1 to 2 cm (0.5 to 1 inch). Seed can be drilled or broadcast, but because of its size and shape, it tends to stick together. Rice hulls and/or a good companion seed will help prevent “bridging over,” and allow proper dispersion of seed. There are about 993,700 seeds per pound.


Applying 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre every other season during October or November will maintain healthy, erosion resistant stands. Annual fescues are initial invaders, so as sites improve, taller, more enduring plants will probably replace annual fescue, unless the area is mowed or grazed. In cover crop planting, annual fescue can be mowed frequently, but should be allowed to produce mature seed for continued perpetuation. It is readily controlled by several herbicides, providing assurance that it will not become a troublesome weed.

Seeds and Plant Production

Plant Production

Plant Production

Annual fescue has been grown in large-scale seed increase blocks at the Lockeford Plant Materials Center for the last three years. Seed was planted at a 3 lb./acre rate in 30 inch rows with a Planet Junior planter. Broad-leaf weed control herbicides are used. Seed is combined directly with an Allis Chalmers All-Crop Harvester, Model 72. Shattering is a problem at harvest time, so the seed is usually harvested while still a little green. Therefore, seed has to be dried in the field or a dryer before cleaning. Also, seed can be harvested using a flail-vac harvester.


Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA, NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective. Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) ‘Zorro’ Cultivar- Seed for this cultivar was collected from native plants on droughty strips of a Colombia fine sandy loam at the Plant Materials Center, Lockeford, California. This collection was assigned as P1-109-71 and named Zorro in December 1976. It has excellent seedling vigor and has shown superior seedling establishment compared to ‘Blando’ soft brome (Bromus mollis) on infertile, shallow or droughty soils where erosion control is critical. It matures seed about 10 days to two weeks earlier than Blando (in May-June) if moisture conditions are normal. This earlier maturity assures perpetuation in droughty and low rainfall areas. Contact your local Natural Resources


Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

Plant Traits

Growth Requirements

Temperature, Minimum (°F)17
Adapted to Coarse Textured SoilsYes
Adapted to Fine Textured SoilsYes
Adapted to Medium Textured SoilsYes
Anaerobic ToleranceNone
CaCO3 ToleranceHigh
Cold Stratification RequiredNo
Drought ToleranceHigh
Fertility RequirementLow
Fire ToleranceNone
Frost Free Days, Minimum80
Hedge ToleranceNone
Moisture UseLow
pH, Maximum7.6
pH, Minimum5.9
Precipitation, Maximum18
Precipitation, Minimum5
Root Depth, Minimum (inches)12
Salinity ToleranceLow
Shade ToleranceIntolerant


Resprout AbilityNo
Shape and OrientationErect
Active Growth PeriodFall, Winter and Spring
C:N RatioLow
Coppice PotentialNo
Fall ConspicuousNo
Fire ResistantNo
Flower ColorYellow
Flower ConspicuousNo
Foliage ColorGreen
Foliage Porosity SummerDense
Foliage Porosity WinterPorous
Fruit/Seed ColorBrown
Fruit/Seed ConspicuousNo
Growth FormBunch
Growth RateRapid
Height, Mature (feet)1.5
Known AllelopathNo
Leaf RetentionNo
Low Growing GrassNo
Nitrogen FixationNone
Foliage TextureFine


Propagated by SeedYes
Propagated by SodNo
Propagated by SprigsNo
Propagated by TubersNo
Fruit/Seed PersistenceNo
Seed per Pound700000
Seed Spread RateRapid
Seedling VigorHigh
Small GrainNo
Vegetative Spread RateNone
Propagated by CormNo
Propagated by ContainerNo
Propagated by BulbNo
Propagated by Bare RootNo
Fruit/Seed Period EndSpring
Fruit/Seed Period BeginSpring
Fruit/Seed AbundanceHigh
Commercial AvailabilityRoutinely Available
Bloom PeriodLate Winter
Propagated by CuttingsNo


Veneer ProductNo
Pulpwood ProductNo
Protein PotentialLow
Post ProductNo
Palatable HumanNo
Palatable Graze AnimalLow
Palatable Browse AnimalMedium
Nursery Stock ProductNo
Naval Store ProductNo
Lumber ProductNo
Fodder ProductNo
Christmas Tree ProductNo
Berry/Nut/Seed ProductNo

<i>Festuca megalura</i> Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.

<i>Festuca megalura</i> Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.

<i>Festuca megalura</i> Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.

<i>Festuca megalura</i> Nutt. var. hirsuta (Hack.) Asch. & Graebn.

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