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Tall fescue
(Schedonorus phoenix )


A tall, erect perennial grass with seed-heads up to 1.5 m tall, found in lowland pasture and waste areas. Tolerant of wet soils yet withstands drought well. Currently a minor pasture species in New Zealand but has potential in drier areas, especially when non-toxic strains of endophyte become available.

Tall fescue has a large tiller size and is therefore sensitive to hard/frequent grazing. Widespread along roadsides.

Formerly known by the Latin name Festuca arundinacea

Vegetative identification

  • Leaves are dark green with distinct, coarse ribs on the upper surface and a glossy lower surface;
  • related to ryegrass and may have traces of red pigment at the tiller base;

  • short bristles along the edge of the collar (region where leaf blade meets sheath) visible with magnification;

  • leaves are harsh to touch, fine silica teeth (inset top right) can be felt if finger tips are run down leaf margins.
  • Seedhead is an open, much branched panicle consisting of twin but unequal length branches carrying 5-15 spikelets. Each spikelet contains 3 - 10 florets.

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Page last modified on 25 February 2003 and will expire on 1 January 2004