T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Festuca arundinacea (Tall fescue)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Festuca
Species: F. arundinacea
Binomial name: Festuca arundinacea
Synonyms: Schedonorus arundinaceus, Schedonorus phoenix, Festuca fenas, Festuca uechtritziana, Lolium arundinaceum
Common name: New Zealand tall fescue, Reed fescue, Tall meadow fescue, Tall fescue, Alata fescue, Coarse fescue,

Festuca arundinacea is a long-lived perennial grass species native to northern Africa, the Azores, all of Europe and western Asia. It was introduced to New Zealand as a pasture grass over 100 years ago but it has spread from cultivation and is now regarded as a significant environmental weed. It is now established on road verges and in all habitats throughout New Zealand. It is generally coarse and unpalatable to stock. It forms a tall, robust tussock.
The leaves (> 1 m long) which form bunches and are thick and wide with prominent veins running parallel the entire length of the blade. The blades have a toothed margin, which can be felt if fingers are run down the edge of the leaf blade. The underside of the leaf may be shiny. Emerging leaves are rolled in the bud with no prominent ligule. Note that most grasses are folded not rolled, which make this a key identification feature on tall fescue. The auricles are usually blunt but occasionally may be more claw-like. The culm is round in cross-section. Typically, this species of grass has a long growing season and its inflorescences are up to 1.5 m long with the flowers in an erect or nodding panicle >40 cm long. Festuca arundinacea spreads seed transmission — not by stolons or rhizomes, which are common in many grass species.
There is a cultivar called ‘Grasslands Roa’ that was developed in the late 1950s – early 1960s by the Grasslands Division of the DSIR in Palmerston North.



Young plant growing in sandhills at Westport. South Island.
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