Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Dactylis glomerata



Dactylis glomerata (cocksfoot)


  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Dactylis glomerata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • cocksfoot
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • D. glomerata is a perennial grass considered a Eurasian native, but that has been introduced to many temperate countries around the world as a valuable pasture species, has become naturalized in many, has often...

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Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of a large roadside plant.
CaptionDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of a large roadside plant.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of a large roadside plant.
HabitDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of a large roadside plant.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of young plants, with a flower head starting to emerge.
CaptionDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of young plants, with a flower head starting to emerge.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of young plants, with a flower head starting to emerge.
HabitDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); habit of young plants, with a flower head starting to emerge.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); characteristic flowerhead.
CaptionDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); characteristic flowerhead.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); characteristic flowerhead.
FlowerheadDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); characteristic flowerhead.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.
TitleCollar, showing ligule
CaptionDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.
Collar, showing liguleDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.
TitleCollar, showing ligule
CaptionDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015
Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.
Collar, showing liguleDactylis glomerata (orchardgrass); collar area, showing ligule.©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand-2015


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Dactylis glomerata L.

Preferred Common Name

  • cocksfoot

Other Scientific Names

  • Bromus cylindraceus (Brot.) Brot.
  • Bromus glomeratus (L.) Scop.
  • Dactylis abbreviata Bernh. ex Link
  • Dactylis altaica Besser
  • Dactylis aschersoniana Graebn.
  • Dactylis capitellata Link
  • Dactylis ciliata (Peterm.) Opiz
  • Dactylis glaucescens Willd.
  • Dactylis heterophylla Opiz ex Domin
  • Dactylis polygama Horv.
  • Festuca glomerata (L.) All.
  • Koeleria dactylis Chaub.
  • Limnetis glomerata (L.) Eaton
  • Phalaris glomerata (L.) Gueldenst.

International Common Names

  • English: cock's-foot; orchard grass; orchardgrass
  • Spanish: dactilo; dactilo aglomerado; pasto orchoro; pasto ovillo
  • French: dactyle; dactyle agglomere; dactyle pelotonne
  • Portuguese: panasco

Local Common Names

  • : barnyard grass; cocksfoot grass; cockspur
  • : dactyle aggloméré; dactyle pelotonné; gramen pelotonné
  • : jopillo
  • : ya mao
  • Germany: Gemeines Knaeuelgras; Gemeines Knaulgras; Knaulgras; Wiesen- Knaeuelgras
  • Italy: dattile
  • Portugal: dactilo; panasco
  • Sweden: hundaexing; hundäxing; lundäxing

EPPO code

  • DACGL (Dactylis glomerata)

Summary of Invasiveness

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D. glomerata is a perennial grass considered a Eurasian native, but that has been introduced to many temperate countries around the world as a valuable pasture species, has become naturalized in many, has often spread or been spread widely within those countries, and has become an aggressive and persistent low-growing grass in many places. It has been described by Cal-IPC (2015) as an aggressive perennial grass that grows in any kind of soil, is drought resistant and can over-run some grasslands. They add that this species ‘is a desirable pasture grass but has escaped cultivation in many natural areas throughout the United States.’

Weeds of Australia (2015) reported that the species is ‘regarded as an environmental weed in Victoria, Tasmania, ACT and New South Wales. It has been grown as a pasture grass but has also spread into disturbed sites and natural plant communities. It is invasive in heathlands, open woodlands, forests, riparian habitats, freshwater wetlands and coastal environs, where it forms dense swards that suppress native grasses and forbs'. Muyt (2001) says that D. glomerata plants impede the growth and regeneration of indigenous ground flora, with smaller species the most susceptible to the competition.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Dactylis
  •                                 Species: Dactylis glomerata

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Although listing several subspecies and varieties, ITIS (2015) says that only two subspecies of D. glomerata – ssp. glomerata and ssp. lobata (Drejer) H. Lindb. - have been accepted. Both The Plant List (2013) and USDA-ARS (2015), however, accept many subspecies – besides the two mentioned they include: ssp. aschersoniana (Graebn.) Thell.; ssp. himalayensis Domin; ssp. hispanica (Roth) Nyman; ssp. juncinella (Bory ex Boiss.) Stebbins & D.Zohary; ssp. lobata (Drejer) H. Lindb.; ssp. lusitanica Stebbins & D. Zohary; ssp. reichenbachii (Hausm. ex Dalla Torre & Sart.) Stebbins & D. Zohary; ssp. smithii (Link) Stebbins & D. Zohary; and ssp. woronowii (Ovcz.) Stebbins & D. Zohary.

C. E. Hubbard (1984), quoted by Beddows (1959) said that at least 200 names had been applied to taxa under D. glomerata (sensu lato) scattered through European botanical literature. There is clearly a wide diversity of forms within the species, with some being erect and others spreading and prostrate, and a wide variety of leaf colours. Some such types have been used as ornamentals (Beddows, 1959); some having yellow or golden leaves and others being variegated.


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Perennial, tufted grass with flowering stalks erect, or kneed, 15–140 cm long. Plants have an extensive fibrous root system but no stolons and rarely have short rhizomes. Leaf sheaths keeled, ligule membranous. Leaf blades hairless, flat, folded among the mid-line, 10–45 cm long, 2–14 mm wide.


Inflorescence distinctive, bearing a fanciful resemblance to a cock’s foot. The flower head is 7-20 cm long, one-sided, erect, with the branches close together and spike-like and the lowest branch well below the others, and all the branches ending in several tight clusters of spikelets.


The spikelets are solitary, of 2–5 fertile florets, and are oblong or wedge-shaped, laterally compressed, 5–9 mm long; breaking up at maturity below each fertile floret. The glumes are dissimilar, shorter than the spikelet. The lower glume is lance-shaped, ¾ the length of the upper glume, membranous, 1-keeled, 1-veined. Lower glume ovate with an acute apex, 1-keeled, 3-veined. The lemma tapers gradually to a point, with one awn, 0.5–1.5 mm long overall. The caryopsis is tightly enclosed by the lemma and palea.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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D. glomerata was described by Domin (1943, quoted in Beddows, 1959) as ‘almost cosmopolitan’, since it has spread or been carried to every continent, often because of its role in seed mixtures. Beddows (1959) points out that it was common throughout Europe by 1769, before its value as a pasture grass had been acknowledged. The species occurs widely in the northern hemisphere north of latitude 30-35°N, and its distribution corresponds to 10°C and 27°C July isotherms (Beddows, 1959). It is generally reported as being native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, and introduced to the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
ArmeniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
AzerbaijanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
BhutanPresent only in captivity/cultivationNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
ChinaPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-GansuPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-GuizhouPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-HebeiPresent only in captivity/cultivationNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-HenanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-HubeiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-JiangsuPresent only in captivity/cultivationNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-NingxiaPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-ShaanxiPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-ShandongPresent only in captivity/cultivationNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-SichuanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-TibetPresentNativeBeddows, 1959
-XinjiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-YunnanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
-ZhejiangPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
IndiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015Northern parts
-AssamPresentIntroducedBeddows, 1959
IranPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
IraqPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
IsraelPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
JapanPresentIntroducedPIER, 2015
JordanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
KazakhstanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
KyrgyzstanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
LebanonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
MongoliaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
NepalPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
PakistanPresentNativeFlora of Pakistan, 2015Punjab, N.W.F.P., Gilgit & Kashmir, 1700-4000 m
SyriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
TaiwanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2015
TajikistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
TurkeyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
TurkmenistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
UzbekistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015


AlgeriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
EgyptPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
KenyaPresentHeuze and Tran, 2015Found above 2350 m
LesothoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
LibyaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
MoroccoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
RéunionPresentIntroducedPIER, 2015; Weeds of Australia, 2015
South AfricaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
TanzaniaLocalisedIntroducedClayton, 1970Roadsides, Usambara mountains, 2000-2300m
TunisiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlbertaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-ManitobaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New BrunswickPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Newfoundland and LabradorPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Nova ScotiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OntarioPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Prince Edward IslandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-QuebecPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Yukon TerritoryPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
GreenlandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
Saint Pierre and MiquelonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-AlaskaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-CaliforniaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-DelawarePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-District of ColumbiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2015; USDA-NRCS, 2015
-IdahoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-IndianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-IowaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-KansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MainePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MarylandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MichiganPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MinnesotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MississippiPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MissouriPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-MontanaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-NebraskaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-NevadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New HampshirePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-New YorkPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-North DakotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OhioPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-OregonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-South DakotaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-TennesseePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-UtahPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
-VermontPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-VirginiaPresentKuhn et al., 2013; USDA-NRCS, 2015
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-West VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-WisconsinPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
-WyomingPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015Invasive in Juan Fernandez Islands and continental Chile
UruguayPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015


AustriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
BelarusPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
BelgiumPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
BulgariaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
CroatiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
CyprusPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
Czech RepublicPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
DenmarkPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
EstoniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
FinlandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
FrancePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
-CorsicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
GreecePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
HungaryPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
IcelandPresentIntroducedBeddows, 1959
IrelandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
ItalyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
LatviaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
LithuaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
MoldovaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
NetherlandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
NorwayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
PolandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
PortugalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
-MadeiraPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
RomaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
Russian FederationPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
-Central RussiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
-Eastern SiberiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015
-Northern RussiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
-Southern RussiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
-Western SiberiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SerbiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SlovakiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SloveniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SpainPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SwedenPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
SwitzerlandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
UKPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
UkrainePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015


American SamoaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
AustraliaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
-Lord Howe Is.PresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015
-New South WalesWidespreadIntroducedCHAH, 2015
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedCHAH, 2015
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedCHAH, 2015
-TasmaniaWidespreadIntroducedCHAH, 2015
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedCHAH, 2015
GuamPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
Johnston IslandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2015
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
New ZealandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2015
-Kermadec IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015
PalauPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015

History of Introduction and Spread

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Beddows (1959) expressed surprise that although this species was known to be common in many meadows and pastures in southern England in the 1700s, farmers did not seem to have collected and increased the species for agriculture in the same way as with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) in the 1600s. In a reversal of the usual pattern of spread, Beddows speculated that perhaps agricultural usage came about as a consequence of seed received from the North American colonies as the result of the activities of the London Society of Arts.

D. glomerata was introduced to Assam as a fodder plant in 1934 and Beddows (1959) speculated that it may similarly have been introduced elsewhere in India and China as a valuable fodder species. The species was carried to North America in 1760 (Sullivan, 1992) and to other former British colonies in the early 1800s. 


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia UK   Crop production (pathway cause) Yes CHAH (2015); Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2015)
New Zealand UK   Crop production (pathway cause) Yes THOMSON (1922)
USA 1760 Yes Sullivan (1992); Thomson (1922)

Risk of Introduction

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D. glomerata has probably been taken deliberately to most countries that have suitable climates and it may yet be introduced to the few other countries in which it could grow but to which it has not yet been introduced. 


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The habitat of D. glomerata in Britain is described by Beddows (1959) as widespread in hedgerows, meadows, pastures and rough grassland throughout the lowlands. Beddows also says that it tolerates (in Britain) a wide range of climatic conditions though it is sensitive to extreme conditions of temperature, precipitation and wind. It will not tolerate very wet conditions and is most often seen where shelter is present, such as close to hedges. In Australia, it is found in heathlands, open woodlands, forests, riparian habitats, freshwater wetlands and coastal environs (Weeds of Australia, 2015).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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D. glomerata can be a nuisance in fine turf but can eventually be eliminated by close mowing (Hannaway et al., 2004). CAL-IPC (2015) mentions that in ‘infrequent circumstances’ it displaces native perennial grasses, but also says it is not usually a problem and seldom occurs in high densities in California. In Australia, Weeds of Australia (2015) describe the species as ‘invasive in heathlands, open woodlands, forests, riparian habitats, freshwater wetlands and coastal environs, where it forms dense swards that suppress native grasses and forbs.’

Biology and Ecology

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D. glomerata has been classified on the basis of its chromosome number and area of origin, but these distinctions have not necessarily been formally accepted as subspecies or varieties (ITIS, 2015). The commonest chromosome numbers are 2n=14 or 2n=28, but there are also minor occurrences of triploid and hexaploid forms. Lolicato and Rumball (1994) explained that diploid and tetraploid plants from the same geographic area show similarities in appearance but these groups will not generally interbreed. The tetraploids probably arose from the diploids by chromosome doubling. Borrill (1978) and Lumaret (1988) (both cited in Lolicato and Rumball, 1994) further divided forms in these two groups into a Eurasian or northern group and a Mediterranean or southern group. The Eurasian group contains large, broad-leaved, vigorous, winter-dormant plants growing mainly in areas with cold winter temperatures. The Mediterranean group includes relatively small, narrow-leaved, summer –dormant plants that grow mainly in areas with summer drought (Lolicato and Rumball, 1994). Many intermediate forms show varying degrees of typical Eurasian or Mediterranean characteristics.

Last et al. (2013) tested the ploidy levels of 50 natural and semi-natural populations of D. glomerata from Bulgaria, Norway and Switzerland. The plants examined were all tetraploid and showed a high level of genetic diversity, although within an individual population genetic distances were low as is typical of self-incompatible and wind-pollinated grasses.

Reproductive Biology

Although individual tussocks of D. glomerata can become quite large, the main method of reproduction is by seed. Seed distribution relies mainly on stiff winds and its transport by birds, animals and man. Beddows (1959) suggests that water dispersal is unlikely.

Before flower shoot initiation can take place, plants must be subjected to a period of cold and then receive a photoperiod of at least 12 hours (Beddows, 1959). In Britain, Beddows reported that flowering may begin towards the end of May, is more general in June and may continue into July. Sporadic flowering can continue through autumn and even into winter. Although cross-fertilisation is usual, self fertilisation is possible in some plants: caryopses from outcrosses showed about 10% higher viability than those from inbreeding.

In the USA, most commercial D. glomerata seed is produced in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, with seed yields of 500-1700 kg/ha (Hannaway et al., 2004). In New Zealand the grass seed industry began with the harvest of D. glomerata on Banks Peninsula in 1851 but this area ceased to produce cocksfoot seed in the 1930s when disease attacked the crop and cheaper machine harvesting was developed elsewhere (Rolston, 2006).

Physiology and Phenology

D. glomerata is a cool season grass with C3 physiology.

Optimum temperature for germination seems to require a night temperature of 22o for 18 hours and a day temperature of 30oC (Beddows, 1959). Very few seeds buried in the soil survive for any length of time. However, seeds stored dry in the laboratory began to lose viability after 4 years and by 12 years were all dead.

D. glomerata establishes more slowly than perennial ryegrass (Hannaway et al., 2004), partly because of its development of a more extensive root system. The species is well-suited to early spring production except in very wet pastures. Leafy shoots are produced throughout the year, with the most active growth in April and May and again in July (in Britain) (Beddows, 1959).


Individual plants of D. glomerata have been known to live for 11 years and were still vigorous before they were ploughed in (Beddows, 1959). The same author suggests that individual shoots are probably annual rather than biennial or perennial since they die back after flowering. He further comments that if flowering is prevented by constant grazing plants may survive to become ‘old’.

The seeds do not appear to survive for long in the soil (Beddows, 1959).

Population Size and Structure

D. glomerata plants in undisturbed environments are mostly solitary but can be sufficiently numerous and close enough to appear contiguous (Beddows, 1959).


D. glomerata in its native Britain is associated with a wide variety of species with the most commonly associated grass species being Anthoxanthum odoratum, Holcus lanatus and Cynosurus cristatus, and Arrhenatherum elatius in lightly grazed or ungrazed areas such as hedgerows and meadows (Beddows, 1959).

Sullivan (1992) reports that an Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana)/D. glomerata vegetation type has been described in Redwood National Park, California.

Environmental Requirements

Sullivan (1992) says that, at least in North America, D. glomerata is best adapted to well-drained, rich or moderately fertile soils with an adequate water regime (30 cm or more rainfall a year) and temperatures that are not extreme. Best growth is at about 21°C. The species is shade tolerant and does well at high elevations in the western USA and Canada (1500 to 1900 m). In Kashmir and western Tibet it grows in forest and open grassland at elevations of 1800-3600m, in France it ascends to 2100m, and in North Africa to 2400m (Beddows, 1959).

D. glomerata grows best in soils with a pH of between 6 and 7, but is found over a range of 5.5 to 8.0 (Spurway, 1941, quoted in Beddows, 1959). Beddows also reports that the species is often referred to as a ‘gross feeder’, since it responds well to nitrogenous fertilisers. However, as Lolicato and Rumball (1994) point out, D. glomerata persists better than perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) under low fertility conditions.


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Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Df - Continental climate, wet all year Preferred Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Preferred Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Sipha maydis Herbivore

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Beddows (1959) lists a number of species of insects that have been found feeding on D. glomerata in Britain, most of which also attack other grass species although a few are apparently confined to this species. The same author lists a number of fungal diseases that affect the plants, some being more serious than others. The bacterial disease Rathayibacter rathayi (formerly Corynebacterium rathayi), had long been known in Europe and has been found in various places in England and Wales. Virus diseases have also been identified on the species. Beddows (1959) also mentioned that slugs, snails, woodlice (several species) and field mice (several species) can all damage the plants.

In North America, Hannaway et al. (2004) identify three diseases having major economic impact on forage production in the Pacific Northwest of the United States: stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis), leaf scald (Rhynchosporium orthosporum) and orchardgrass mottle virus. They say that these diseases cause reduced forage yield and quality but are not harmful to livestock except for respiratory sensitivity in horses. In seed production, choke disease (caused by Epichloe typhina) reduces stand longevity and prevents seed production on infected tillers. Hannaway et al. (2004) also report that D. glomerata does not, in North America, have any serious insect problems although more than 30 species have been found on stands of the species. Slugs (Agriolimax reticulatus) can destroy young plants. Although barley root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne naasi) has been reported on D. glomerata no serious problems have been reported (Hannaway et al., 2004).

In New Zealand, Lolicato and Rumball (1994) reported that rust and grass grub (Costelytra zealandica) can sometimes cause problems with this species.


Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

The seeds of D. glomerata are spread locally by the wind, but more widespread distribution of this species has depended almost entirely on the activities of people. Beddows (1959) suggested that seeds would not be likely to pass through the digestive system of cattle.

Accidental Introduction

Besides the deliberate introduction of D. glomerata to many countries as a forage species, accidental introduction has also been the result in earlier times of hay and straw carried with livestock to distant countries, as well as the use of plants as packing materials or stuffing for mattresses.

Intentional Introduction

D. glomerata has been carried by migrants many new countries where it has established, naturalized and spread widely.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal production Yes Yes
Crop production Yes Yes
Landscape improvement Yes Yes
Seed trade Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Containers and packaging - non-wood Yes Yes
Mulch, straw, baskets and sod Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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D. glomerata has been widely adopted as a very valuable pasture grass in many temperate countries. Its negative impacts seem to be relatively small (CAL-IPC, 2015). 

Environmental Impact

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In Australia D. glomerata is regarded as an environmental weed in Victoria, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territories and New South Wales, where it has spread into disturbed sites and natural plant communities (Weeds of Australia, 2015). It forms dense swards that suppress native grasses and forbs.

In California (CAL-IPC, 2015) D. glomerata has invaded oak woodlands, serpentine habitats and is an emerging threat in coastal prairie grasslands, but it is apparently not usually a problem.

Impact on Biodiversity

Sullivan (1992) says that in North America, D. glomerata is ‘moderately nutritious and highly palatable to deer, elk, bighorn sheep, sheep, and cattle as well as to domestic livestock. She continues, ‘In areas disturbed by fire where orchardgrass has been seeded (usually in a mixture with other grasses and forbs) wildlife use increases over nonseeded areas and nonburned areas’. Furthermore, where this species is dominant in forest openings, rufus hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus), pine siskins (Spinuspinus), slate-colored juncos (Juncohyemalis), American robins (Turdusmigratorius), valley pocket gophers (Thomomysbottae), siskins (Spinus spp.), desert harvest mice (Reithrodontomysmegalotis megalotis), deer mice (Peromyscus spp.), Mexican voles (Microtusmexicanus) and white –tailed deer (Odocoileusvirginianus) are found (Hudson and Johnson, 1964).

Social Impact

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According to PFAF (2015) this species is reported to be oestrogenic. However, the social impacts of D. glomerata have probably been more positive than negative. PFAF also points out that this species is considered a common cause of hayfever.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant


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Economic Value

D. glomerata is widely used as a pasture grass and also to improve forage production on rangelands (Sullivan, 1992). According to Stewart and Ellison, 2011 (quoted in Last, 2013), it is the fourth most important forage grass in the world, due to its high productivity and its disease resistance under varying climatic conditions. Hannaway et al. (2004) report that in Oregon properly fertilised, well-managed stands of D. glomerata are capable of producing high-quality forage, with high levels of palatability, digestible energy, protein and minerals. In Oregon, which produces most of the seed of this species for North America, in 2002-2003 seed production averaged 913 kg/ha over 7663 ha, and its retail value was estimated at about $15 million. The same authors estimated that the value of the species to livestock in the 12 northeastern states could have been over $37.5 million.

Many reports have been written on various aspects of the production and nutritional value of this species to many different animals (including cattle, sheep, rabbits, pigs, horses, donkeys and poultry) (Heuze and Tan, 2015).

Lolicato and Rumball (1994) point out that the older cultivars of the species used in Australia and New Zealand originated in northern Europe and were suited to cooler, wetter areas. However, since the 1950s greater interest has been shown in cultivars with better winter growth, a characteristic of Mediterranean accessions (mostly of the ssp. hispanica). Selections from these accessions have lower crowns and a more prostrate habit which makes them more tolerant of hard grazing.

Social Benefit

The plant is a folk remedy for treating tumours, kidney and bladder ailments (PFAF, 2015).

Environmental Services

Quattrocchi (2006, quoted in Heuze and Tran, 2015) says this species provides excellent ground cover and can be used in rehabilitation programmes such as soil erosion control on cut-over forest land or on slopes, and rehabilitation of sites disturbed by mining.

According to Sullivan (1992)D. glomerata is ‘widely recommended and used for a variety of rehabilitation applications.’ The species is used for reducing erosion after devegetation by fire and for rehabilitation of overgrazed lands. It is also used in areas that have been logged and burned to provide a rapid vegetation cover to help soil stabilisation and provide forage for cattle or wildlife or both. Where sites have been disturbed by mining the species is used for rehabilitation, especially in sites that are relatively cool and moist. 

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage


  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Land reclamation
  • Revegetation
  • Soil conservation


  • Ornamental

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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D. glomerata has a very distinctive flower head, unlikely to be confused with other grass species. 

Prevention and Control

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Physical/Mechanical Control

Beddows (1959) says that D. glomerata can easily be controlled by ploughing, and that it does not survive heavy trampling by livestock. Muyt (2001) says that plants can be dug out but that the crown must be removed to prevent regrowth. Where plants are in seed he suggests cutting and bagging the stems before removing the rest of the plant. Muyt (2001) also says that stands can be slashed regularly during the main growing season to limit seed production. When a weed in turfgrass it can eventually be eliminated by close mowing (Hathaway et al., 2004).

Biological Control

Although a few insect species seem to be confined to D. glomerata (Beddows, 1959) there has never been any interest in using any of these for biological control: the species is so-long established and so valuable in many places that this would be impractical.

Chemical Control

Muyt (2001) says that plants can be treated with non-selective herbicides like glyphosate or grass-selective herbicides like fluazifop-butyl, but follow-up treatment is needed to control seedlings and surviving plants. 


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Lolicato S; Rumball W, 1994. Past and present improvement of cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L.) in Australia and New Zealand. In: New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, 37(3, Special issue) [ed. by Sutherland, G.]. 379-390.

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PFAF, 2015. Plants For A Future.

PIER, 2015. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii.

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Weeds of Australia, 2015. Weeds of Australia, Biosecurity Queensland Edition.


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29/04/15 Original text by:

Ian Popay, Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand 

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