Tufted Hairgrass

Tufted Hairgrass courtesy of Robert H. Mohlenbrock

Photo Courtesy of Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento.

Common Name(s):

Tufted hairgrass

Scientific Name:

Deschampsia caespitosa (L.) Beauv.

Scientific Name Synonyms:

None known




Life Span: Perennial


Season: Cool

Growth Characteristics: A densely tufted, rather short-lived bunchgrass, growing 2 to 4 feet tall. It starts growth early in the spring, flowers from July to September, seeds mature August to September. It reproduces from seeds and tillers.

Seedhead:Open, erect to nodding panicle, 4 to 8 inches long; panicle branches hairlike, spreading, 1 to several per rachis node; spikelets about 1/8 inch long, it contains 2 dark brown to black florets; glumes awnless, as long as the entire spikelet; awn borne near lemma base and as long as spikelet.

Leaves: Abundant, glabrous, mostly basal; blades narrow, 5 to 8 inches long, flat or rolled; leaves folded in bud; collars noticeably swollen; ligule 1/8 to 3/8 inch long, membranous, tapering to tip, auricles absent.

Ecological Adaptations:

Tufted hairgrass is a native of Utah's mountains and meadows. It is widely distributed at elevations from 5,000 to 10,000 feet, where there is 16 inches of annual precipitation and supplemental run-in water.

Tufted hairgrass is resistant to fire, rarely being damaged by even hot intense fires.

Soils: It grows in deep, moisture-saturated, poorly drained soils or well-drained, well-developed soils. It withstands soil saturation for fairly long periods of time. It is somewhat tolerant to salt and alkalinity.

Associated Species: Timothy, redtop, sedges, willows, aspen.

Uses and Management:

Tufted hairgrass is considered to be a good forage plant for cattle, horses, sheep, elk and deer. Management involves moderate use - not more than 50 percent of the total annual yield with occasional rest during the sensitive part of its growing season (the seedstalk formation to the seed ripe stage). It also provides good feed and cover for small mammals and waterfowl.

Tufted hairgrass is resistant to toxic wastes, and is therefore often used in the reclamation of mining sites. It is also recommended for the reclamation of subalpine, alpine, and mountain meadow habitats. It is not recommended for revegetation of streambank areas, since the tufted fibrous roots provide limited bank stabilization.