Tufted Hairgrass

Credit: 
Doug Fraser, BC FLNR
Credit: 
JRJ
Scientific name: 

Deschampsia cespitosa (L.) Beauv.

Type: 
Native Grass
Annual precip. min (mm): 
400
Seed size: 
Small
Seeds per kg: 
3,600,000
PR Suitability note: 
Tufted hairgrass is found in native plant communities in the Peace Region.
Key considerations: 
Tufted hairgrass may be suitable for site rehabilitation when there is native plant community objective, however it prefers moist sites. Moderate forage value for livestock and wildlife.
General Description: 

Tufted hairgrass is a short-lived, tufted, cool season, native perennial bunchgrass. Roots are shallow, fibrous, and dense. A mass of deep green leaves covers the crown. Densely tufted and with numerous stems, this native grass is found throughout British Columbia. Seed production is important for stand maintenance. It is valuable as a range grass and fairly resistant to close grazing.

Each plant has 1 to 20 straw-coloured stems that are 20 to 120 cm (8 to 47 in.) in height. The seed head is feathery in appearance. It branches several times, and forms whorls of 6 to 10 at points 2 cm (1 in.) apart. Leaves are up to 5 mm wide, flat, folded, flexuous, and sharp-pointed, sometimes swollen at each end, and without auricles.

Seed heads are loose, open, often drooping or nodding panicles 10 to 25 cm in length (4 to 10 in.). Spikelets are mostly 2 flowered.

Distribution: 
Found across North America and in Iceland. One of the most widely distributed grasses on earth.
Habitat and climate: 
Found in sloughs, moist draws, wet meadows, on stream banks, poorly drained fertile areas, gravelly river bars, lakeshores, and even alpine tundra. Found in low to high elevations. Occupies moderately moist to seasonally flooded, and sunny to partially shaded environments in a wide variety of soil types.
Uses: 
Highly palatable, resistant to grazing, remains green throughout the summer, and good for pasture forage. This highly variable species can adapt to stressful environments, and is often recommended for reclamation and rehabilitation projects.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Grazing should be deferred until the stands are established.
Recovery after use (rating): 
H
Recovery after use: 
High recovery if rotational grazing system is used. Despite this species’ resistance to grazing damage, it will decline with continuous season-long grazing.
Forage yield (rating): 
M
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Very palatable early in the season with up to 20% protein content in early May.
Longevity (rating): 
L
Longevity: 
Generally considered a short-lived species.
Invasiveness (rating): 
L
Invasiveness: 
Rated low but it can be problematic in some forage crops.
Competitiveness (rating): 
M
Competitiveness: 
Rated moderate as it can dominate if it is seeded too heavily in a mixture, and it can be a serious competitor with trees.
Erosion control (rating): 
M
Erosion control: 
Sometimes used to stabilize stream banks, canals, and shorelines. Tolerates heavy metal contamination.
Drought tolerance (rating): 
L
Winter hardiness (rating): 
H
Soil texture preference (rating): 
A
Soil texture preference: 
Can be found in a wide variety of soil types from fine to coarse.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
H
Flooding tolerance: 
Can be found in seasonally flooded areas.
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
M
Salinity tolerance: 
Tufted hairgrass is generally considered to have low salinity tolerance; however, it grows in salt marshes and coastal estuaries so some tolerance to salinity is inferred.
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
M
Acidity tolerance : 
Tolerant to both acidity (low pH levels) and alkalinity (high pH levels).
Shade tolerance: 
Moderate
Fire tolerance (rating): 
H
Fire comment: 
The crown of tufted hairgrass can survive all but the most severe or hottest fires.
Pests and/or disease threats: 
Insect pests include aphids, billbugs, leafhoppers, and others. This species is host to number of diseases and pests such as ergot, rusts, stripe smut, blind seed, leafs spots, and turf disease.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
L
Ease of establishment: 
Tufted hairgrass will establish with adequate moisture. Seed selected from high elevations may have higher dormancy and is likely to germinate better in fall seeding applications. Seeds selected from low elevations have lower dormancy and thus can be planted in the fall or spring. Specific selections are often required for extreme soil conditions.
Management considerations: 
Where species diversity is a goal, mixtures with less than 0.3 to 0.6 kg/ha (approx.1/4 to 1/2 lb/acre) may be required.