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Festuca pratensis Huds.

Syn.: Festuca elatior L., pro partem
Meadow fescue

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


A good grazing grass, used to a lesser extent for hay. Valuable for pasture in permanent grassland; grown in areas suitable for timothy. Unsuitable for short leys, as establishment is slow. Very palatable and equal to perennial ryegrass for grazing by dairy cattle on suitable soils. Used in pasture mixtures on wetlands and for erosion control in humid northern regions (Reed, 1976).

Folk Medicine

I have few Festuca folk medicinal entries, none for Festuca pratensis (Duke and Wain, 1981).


Studying 10 cvs each of F. arundinacea and F. pratensis, Kirillov and Baskakova (1975) found the highest protein content in 'Moscow 62' and 'Kamala 95'. Protein ranged from 1.57–4.72%, sugar from 1.41–5%, ascorbic acid from 7.7–55.4 mg/100 g.


Loosely tufted perennial, short-lived bunchgrass; culms 3–12 dm tall, forming an open turf when grazed, solitary plants forming large tussocks; leaves narrowly linear, scaberulous along margin, 3–6 mm broad; panicle up to 20 cm long, rather 1-sided, contracted, somewhat open only in anthesis, branches reduced in length, the shortest among the lower branches bearing 1–2 spikelets; spikelets green or faintly purple, linear-oblong, up to 15 mm long, 3–10-flowered; glumes subobtuse, smooth, margins hyaline, the upper one 3.5–4.5 mm long; ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate, the lower lanceolate, 2–3 mm long; lemmas oblong-ovate, convex, subobtuse or rounded-subobtuse, margin broadly membraneous toward summit, smooth, obscurely 5-veined, the midvein not reaching tip, 5–7 mm long; palea elliptic-lanceolate, sparsel scabrous on upper two-thirds of keels, about as long as the lemma; anthers linear, about 3mm long. Fl. May–July. Seeds 507, 150/kg (Reed, 1976).


Reported from the Eurosiberian Center of Diversity, meadow fescue, or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate disease, extreme drought, frost, fungus, high pH, limestone, low pH, mine, poor soil, sand, shade, and slope (Duke, 1978). Selected strains have been developed in Europe and elsewhere for pasture or hay, and are more leafy and have finer leaves than ordinary commercial types. The pasture strains are very leafy and are heavy tillering. However, most varieties developed in Europe are not generally adapted in the United States. Cultivars, 'Mefon' and 'Ensign', developed in Ontario, are hay-pasture type, selected for winter hardiness and disease resistance and used in Eastern Canada. European cultivars include: 'Barbarossa' (Holland), 'Barkas' (Holland), 'Festina' (Holland), 'Mimer' (Sweden), and 'S-215' (United Kingdom). Along with 'Ensign', 'Sturdy' (Manitoba), and 'Trader' (Ontario) have been developed in Canada. Hybrids have been formed with Lolium perrenne. 2n = 14 (Reed, 1976).


Native to northern Europe east to Central Asia and south to Caucasus and Asia Minor. Introduced to North America from England (Reed, 1976).


Ranging from Boreal Moist to Rain through Subtropical Dry Forest Life Zones, meadow fescue is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3.2 to 13.6 dm (mean of 49 cases = 7.3), annual temperature of 4.3 to 21.1°C (mean of 49 cases = 9.2), and pH of 4.5 to 8.2 (mean of 45 cases = 6.3) (Duke, 1978, 1979). Adapted to cool climates as a cool-season turfgrass. Thrives in deep rich soil, but also grows well on calcareous or sandy soils provided they are moist. In native areas, found in meadows, forest margins, thin forests (Reed, 1976).


Rather slow to establish, this grass requires a clean seedbed. Propagated from sown at a rate of 11–28 kg/ha. Optimum temperature for germination, 20–30°C. In mixtures with clovers sown 9–13 kg/ha; with alfalfa, 3 kg/ha. Combines well with clovers, Lotus corniculatus, alfalfa and grasses, as Phleum pratense and Dactylis glomerata, producing a large proportion of leafy bottom growth (Reed, 1976).


Remaining green in mild winters, hence valuable for autumn and winter grazing, meadow fescue is now grown less than in past for pasturage and hay (because of general superiority of tall fescue). Not so heavy yielding nor persistant as tall fescue. Should be cut when beginning to flower. In wet years, it may furnish a second cutting. Surpasses timothy in fodder quality (Reed, 1976).

Yields and Economics

Yields 3–4 MT/ha; seed harvest about 300 kg/ha (Reed, 1976). A yield of 11.5 MT/ha is reported at Szaritopuszta, Hungary (Kovacs and Angeli, 1978). Fresh fodder yields in Romania are ca 3.5 MT/ha. In 17 trials in 6 locations in Denmark, yields were between 8 and 9 MT/ha in both the first and second year, the CP ranging from 15.1–16.1, the CF content from 24.1–25.3.


According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from 2 to 12 MT/ha, 5–11 in Czechoslovakia, 8–9 in Denmark, 12 in Germany, 11–12 in Hungary, 6 in the US, and 2–5 in USSR. Festula arundinacea, the tall fescue, has DM of 1–18, F. pseudovina, 3, F. rubra, 3, and F. varia, 2–3.

Biotic Factors

The following fungi have been reported on meadow fescue: Chaetomium globosum, Claviceps purpurea, Colletotrichum graminicola, Erysiphe graminis, Fusarium equiseti, Helminthosporium dictyoides, Oidium erysiphoides, Phialea temulenta, Phyllachora cunninghamii, Puccinia coronata, P. festucae, P. graminis, P. phlei-pratensis, P. piperi, P. poae-sudeticae, P. rubigo-vera, Pythium arrenomanes, P. debaryanum, P. irregulare, Sclerotinia borealis, Selen-phoma donacis var. stomaticola, Septoria tenella, Spermospora subulata, Tuburcinia Macrospora, Urocystis ulei, and Ustilago striiformis. It is also parasitized by Cuscuta pentagona. Nematodes isolated from meadow fescue include the following: Ditylenchus dipsaci, D. radicicola, Eucephalobus elongatus, Helicotylenchus microbolus, Heterodera avenae, H. major, H. schachtii, Meloidogyne naasi, Meloidogyne sp. Pratylenchus penetrans, P. projectus, Tylenctiorhynchus claytoni (Reed, 1976).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw