Festuca pratensis (meadow fescue)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Festuca pratensis Huds.
Preferred Common Name
- meadow fescue
Other Scientific Names
- Bromus pratense (Huds.) Spreng.
- Festuca americana (Pers.) F. Dietr.
- Festuca apennina De Not.
- Festuca arctica Schur
- Festuca australis Schur
- Festuca elatior L.
- Festuca elatior Linnaeus, misapplied
- Festuca elatior St.-Yves
- Festuca elatior var. pratensis (Hudson) A. Gray
- Festuca glabra Spreng.
- Festuca heteromalla Pourr.
- Festuca pluriflora Schult.
- Festuca poaeoides Michx.
- Lolium pratense (Hudson) Darbysh.
- Poa intermedia Koeler
- Schedenorus pluriflorus (Schult.) H.Scholz.
- Schedonorus americanus (Pers.) Roem. & Schult.
- Schedonorus apenninus (de Not.) Tzvelev
- Schedonorus pratensis (Hudson) Palisot de Beauvois
- Schedonorus radicans Dumort.
- Tragus pratensis (Huds.) Panz.
International Common Names
- English: English bluegrass
- Spanish: canuela de los prados
- French: fetuque des pres
- Chinese: cao dian yang mao
- Portuguese: festuca-dos-prados
Local Common Names
- Germany: Wiesen- Schwingel
- Italy: festuca dei prati
- Netherlands: Beemdlangbloem
- Sweden: aengssvingel
- FESPR (Festuca pratensis)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
F. pratensis, commonly known as meadow fescue, is a perennial grass native to parts of Eurasia. It has been introduced to temperate regions around the world for use as forage, turf and soil stabilization. Much of this translocation occurred in the early 1800s and 1900s. Its use as a forage species outside of Europe declined in much of the 1900s in favour of other forage species. Where introduced outside of its native range the species can be invasive in riparian areas, forests, and grasslands and decrease native biodiversity. It may pose a threat to rare plant species in these ecosystems, for example the endangered mustard species Physaria globosa (Short’s bladderpod) in the USA.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Festuca
- Species: Festuca pratensis
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Festuca pratensis is a perennial grass (Poaceae). The species was first described from England in 1762 by William Hudson. This and several similar species, particularly F. arundinacea, form a group informally called the broadleaf fescues. The generic placement of these species has been a matter of controversy. Hybrids with members of the genus Lolium occur readily, such as with L. perenne. Some authors, including Soreng and Terrell (1997) treat the broadleaf fescues in the genus Schedonorus. Darbyshire (1993), however, felt that the recognition of Schedonorus seemed unwarranted, treating these species in the genus Lolium. Molecular studies have repeatedly confirmed the close relationship with Lolium, e.g. Torrecilla and Catalán (2002). Placement in Lolium has been followed by Weakley (2015). Most recently the name Schedonorus pratensis has been adopted by Flora of North America (Darbyshire, 2007) and by USDA-NRCS (2016) although USDA-ARS (2016) and most authorities outside the USA continue to use Festuca pratensis.
The name Festuca elatior, described by Linnaeus, was formerly applied to this species, e.g. by Hitchcock and Chase (1951). Due to confusion of the application of the name it has been rejected by the International Botanical Congress (Reveal et al., 1991).
DescriptionTop of page
Caespitose perennial. Culms to 1.3 m, erect to ascending. Leaf sheaths glabrous, auricles glabrous, ligule an eciliate membrane, to 0.5 mm, with falcate auricles; leaf blades 10–25 cm long, 2–7 mm wide. Panicles open, nodding, to 35 cm; branches at the lowest node 1 or 2, shorter branch with 1–2(3) spikelets, longer branch with 2–6(9) spikelets. Spikelets laterally compressed, usually with 4-10 florets (upper florets reduced), 12–16 mm long, 2–5 mm wide. Lower glumes 2.5–4.5 mm; upper glumes 3–5 mm; lemmas 5–8 mm, smooth to slightly scabrous distally, apices unawned, sometimes mucronate with mucros to 0.2 mm. Caryopses 3–4 mm long, 1–1.5 mm wide.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
F. pratensis originated in the Eurosiberia/Southeast Asia area about two million years ago (Inda et al., 2014). It is native to a wide area of Eurasia (Aiken et al., 1997; Darbyshire, 2007; GrassWorld, 2016), but the exact native range is uncertain due to its use as a forage grass. It may have been introduced to Nordic areas (Fjellheim et al., 2006), for example. In Asia it is introduced in China (Shenglian et al., 2006), Japan (Miyawaki and Washitani, 2004), and Taiwan (Wu et al., 2010). It is also marginally introduced in the Pacific Islands in Hawaii (Snow, 2008; Wagner et al., 2012).
The species has also been introduced to the Americas. It occurs in South America in Argentina (GrassWorld, 2016; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016). It is widely naturalized in North America, particularly north temperate areas of the USA and Canada, from Greenland to Alaska, south to southern California and Georgia (Aiken et al., 1997; Darbyshire, 2007). Some reports from southern states, e.g. by USDA-NRCS (2016), are probably in error. In Australia it is known from five provinces, mainly near the southern and southeastern coasts (AVH, 2016).
Distribution TableTop of page
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.Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present||Native|
|Portugal||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Native|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present||Native|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Introduced|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Introduced|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||Present||Introduced|
|-Alabama||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Arkansas||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Delaware||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Introduced|
|-Florida||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Georgia||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Kentucky||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Louisiana||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Mississippi||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Nebraska||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-New Jersey||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-North Carolina||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Ohio||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Oklahoma||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Rhode Island||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Tennessee||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Much of the spread of F. pratensis occurred in the late 1700s through the early 1900s. It was included by Michaux in his 1803 Flora Boreali-Americana (which he named F. poaeoides) from the Saint Lawrence River (Michaux, 1803). The species was introduced to China in the late 1800s or early 1900s (Shenglian et al., 2006). Introductions to other parts of Asia, including Japan and Taiwan, and Australia probably occurred during the same time period. The date of introduction to Argentina is unknown. While it was used in forage grass trials in Hawaii by the 1930s (Ripperton et al., 1933), it was not reported as established in the State until 2007 (Snow, 2008; Wagner et al., 2012).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Argentina||Europe||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||GrassWorld (2016)||pasture grass|
|Canada||Europe||late 1700s||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Darbyshire (2007)||pasture grass|
|China||Europe||late 1800s||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Shenglian et al. (2006)||pasture grass|
|Greenland||Europe||late 1700s||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Darbyshire (2007)||pasture grass|
|Hawaii||Europe||early 1900s||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Ripperton et al. (1933)||pasture grass|
|Japan||Europe||late 1800s||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Shenglian et al. (2006)||pasture grass|
|USA||Europe||late 1700s||Forage (pathway cause)||Yes||Darbyshire (2007)||pasture grass|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Meadow fescue may have already reached much of its potential range. The species is not currently favoured as a pasture grass outside of Europe. If improved cultivars are developed, it may experience resurgence in popularity, and could become more common in some regions where it is now rare.
HabitatTop of page
F. pratensis is primarily a species of pastures and disturbed habitats. In Europe in its natural range it occurs in agricultural fields, but in undisturbed areas it is confined to open habitats including river banks (Fjellheim et al., 2006). In its introduced range the species also mainly occurs in agricultural and other artificial habitats (Darbyshire, 2007; Weakley, 2015). In Japan, Miyawaki and Washitani (2004) report that it occurs in riparian areas. In the USA is can occur in white oak forests (Schulz and Gray, 2013).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Meadow fescue is a diploid with a chromosome number of 2n-14 (Darbyshire, 2007) or occasionally tetraploid (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016). Fjellheim et al. (2006) found low levels of intraspecific variation, but found 3 haplotypes with different geographic distributions.
The grass is wind pollinated and reproduces by seed. It is strongly self-incompatible (Lundquist, 1961). Seeds do not generally retain viability in the soil beyond one year and germination in colder environments e.g. at high elevation, may require cold stratification (US Forest Service, 2016). Plants may spread or regenerate from tillers, or sometimes from short rhizomes (US Forest Service, 2016).
Physiology and Phenology
F. pratensis has C3 physiology. It flowers in spring and early summer, from about May to July (Weakley, 2015).
F. pretensis is a long-lived perennial.
F. pratensis and its relatives form associations with fungal endophytes. These endophytes form an intracellular association in aerial portions of plants. Epichloë uncinata (= Neotyphodium uncinatum) has been identified as the primary endophyte of F. pratensis (Christensen et al., 1993; Bush et al., 1997; Wiewióra et al., 2007; Panka et al., 2011). This endophyte association can have different effects, such as conferring herbivore resistance and drought resistance to the host (Wiewióra et al., 2007). This association can be detrimental to livestock causing fescue toxicosis. In the F. pratensis endophyte association with E. uncinata only loline alkaloids are produced which do not cause fescue toxicosis (Bush et al., 1997).
F. pratensis is adapted to cool climates. In the USA its use as a pasture grass has been restricted mainly to northeastern states with adequate rainfall, south to about northern Oklahoma and Arkansas, and west to eastern portions of the Dakotas, Kansas, and Nebraska (Vinall, 1909). US Forest Service (2016) records that it is tolerant of acid soils but may also occur in calcareous soils.
ClimateTop of page
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
|Df - Continental climate, wet all year||Preferred||Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Little data is available on the dispersal mechanisms of F. pratensis. Likely vectors are wind and water, especially movement of seeds in irrigation water (US Forest Service, 2016).
The awned lemmas are also able to attach to animal fur, and dispersal by cattle has been documented (Couvreur et al., 2004).
US Forest Service (2016) suggests that seeds may be spread in the manure of domestic livestock and by farm machinery.
F. pratensis has become established widely due to intentional introduction as a pasture grass. It may also be introduced accidentally as a contaminant in seed mixes (Vinall, 1909).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
F. pratensis is primarily found where intentionally introduced into pastures. The largest impact on habitats results from conversion of natural areas into pastures, resulting in a dramatic loss of diversity. F. pratensis has been documented as occurring in some natural areas, but these invasions appear to be sporadic. In Japan Miyawaki and Washitani (2004) reports that it occurs in riparian areas. In the USA it can occur in white oak forests (Schulz and Gray, 2013).
Impact on Biodiversity
F. pratensis may impact habitat for some rare species. This impact is probably indirect. Its use as a pasture grass has resulted in large areas of natural grassland and other ecosystems being converted to low diversity, managed fields. F. pratensis has been implicated in threatening the endangered mustard species Physaria globosa (Short’s bladderpod) in the USA (NatureServe, 2016).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- 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
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of fire regime
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
F. pratensis has been valued for centuries as a pasture grass in temperate regions. While other species have become more popular in the last century, it is still valued in some regions, especially because it is more cold tolerant than Festuca arundinacea, although it is not as productive (Aiken et al., 1996; Casler et al, 2008).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Gene source
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Invasions of F. pratensis into natural areas, including riparian zones and forests can be successfully eradicated with herbicides. Most populations of the species occur in pastures where intentionally introduced. Techniques for eradication from pastures should focus on a long-term view of desired vegetation, whether it is conversion of the pasture to a different forage species, or to a restored habitat. While there is little data available for control of F. pratensis, techniques should follow those recommended for the control of Festuca arundinacea, e.g. (Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, 2006). A combination of disking and herbicide application, followed by introductions of new plant species can be effective in long-term control of the species.
Herbicide treatments can be used to control F. pratensis. A variety of herbicide formulations were found to be effective in experiments by Adkins and Barnes (2013), including imazapic, clethodim, glyphosate and suflosulfuron. The best results were obtained by applying herbicide in summer.
ReferencesTop of page
Adkins JK; Barnes TG, 2013. Herbicide treatment and timing for controlling Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) in cool season grasslands of Central Kentucky, USA. Natural Areas Journal, 33(1):31-38. http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.3375/043.033.0104
Aiken SG; Dallwitz MJ; McJannet CL; Consaul LL, 1996. Festuca of North America: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. delta-intkey.com/festuca
Aiken SG; Dallwitz MJ; McJannet CL; Consaul LL, 1997. Biodiversity among Festuca (Poaceae) in North America: diagnostic evidence from DELTA and clustering programs, and an INTKEY package for interactive, illustrated identification and information retrieval. Canadian Journal of Botany, 75(9):1527-1555.
AVH, 2016. Australia's Virtual Herbarium. http://avh.ala.org.au/
Casler MD; Albrecht K; Lehmkuhler J; Brink G; Combs D, 2008. Forage fescues in the northern USA. Madison, USA: University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, 15 pp. http://www.cias.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/fescuefinalweb.pdf
Christensen MJ; Leuchtmann A; Rowan DD; Tapper BA, 1993. Taxonomy of Acremonium endophytes of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), meadow fescue (F. pratensis) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). Mycological Research, 97(9):1083-1092
Darbyshire SJ, 2007. Schedonorus, in Flora of North America. New York, USA: Oxford Univ. Press.
EPPO, 2016. PQR - EPPO Plant Quarantine Data Retrieval System, version 5.3.5. Paris, France: OEPP/EPPO. http://www.eppo.int/DATABASES/pqr/pqr.htm
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Fjellheim S; Rognli OA; Fosnes K; Brochmann C, 2006. Phylogeographical history of the widespread meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis Huds.) inferred from chloroplast DNA sequences. Journal of Biogeography, 33(8):1470-1478.
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Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, 2006. Habitat Management Fact Sheet: Fescue Eradication. Indianapolis, USA: Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife, 4 pp. http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/files/fescue.pdf
Lundqvist A, 1961. Self-incompatability in Festuca pratensis Huds. Hereditas, 47(3-4):542-562.
Michaux A, 1803. Flora boreali-americana: sistens caracteres plantarum quas in America septentrionali. 733 pp.
Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016. Tropicos database. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.tropicos.org/
Miyawaki S; Washitani I, 2004. Invasive alien plant species in riparian areas of Japan: the contribution of agricultural weeds, revegetation species and aquacultural species. Global Environmental Research, 8(1):89-101.
NatureServe, 2016. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life. Version 7. Arlington, Virginia, USA: NatureServe. http://explorer.natureserve.org/index.htm
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Reveal JL; Terrell EE; Wiersema JH; Scholz H, 1991. (996) Proposal to Reject Festuca elatior L. with Comments on the Typification of F. pratensis and F. arundinacea (Poaceae). Taxon, 40(1):135-137.
Schulz BK; Gray AN, 2013. The new flora of northeastern USA: quantifying introduced plant species occupancy in forest ecosystems. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 185(5):3931-3957. http://rd.springer.com/journal/10661
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Vinall HN, 1909. Meadow fescue: its culture and uses. Washington DC, USA: US Department of Agriculture, 22 pp.
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ContributorsTop of page
20/06/16 Original text by:
Keith Bradley, Consultant, South Carolina, USA
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