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Cynosurus cristatus

Crested dog’s tail, dog’s tail grass

Cynosurus cristatus (Schröter, 1888)


Perennial, 20-60 cm high, forming dense thickets or turf patches. Young shoots numerous, intravaginal.

Culms are 10-70 cm high, slender, erect. They ascend from a ground stem that is rather thick and mostly dark to black. Also unramified, smooth and glabrous, one to three noded, nodes glabrous.

Leaf sheaths of the young shoots are almost closed up to the apex, slightly torn open, grooved, smooth and glabrous, the lowest ones disintegrating into fibres.

Ligule is a fringe that is 0.5-1.5 mm long, collar-shaped and membranous.

Leaf blades of the young shoots are 4-15 cm long and 1-2 mm wide, flat, adaxially glabrous or with short hair, scabrous within the top third; leaf blades of the culm are up to 3 mm wide.

Inflorescence a panicle, 2-12 cm long, 5-10 mm wide, dense, contracted, with a main axis that is bent zigzag. The groups of spikelets are arranged on one side of the main axis. Panicle also erect, green, often coated purple, with very short and ramified branches, ciliated like the main axis and the rachis. The spikelets are always next to a stalked dense fan of empty husks, several together, arranged in short balled groups.

Spikelets with two to five florets, 3-6 mm long without awns, laterally compressed.


In the Alps this perennial Eurasian species occurs from the foothills to the subalpine zone. In the lower valleys of the Alps that are warm in summer, the plant decreases significantly. At these locations dog’s tail grass prefers sites with good water support and less sun.

In the montane zone with its more balanced climate, the plant grows more often in meadows and pastures. There it also appears in natural and artificial turf sites, in country lanes and in low-density stands.

On clay soil and loam that is moist, rich in nutrients, alkaline, moderately acid, mostly compacted, indicating light (heliophyte). It likes moist, moderately rich in nutrients and humus, loamy-clayey soils with a pH of 5-7.

It is a good forage grass that protects the soil against erosion thanks to its good resistance to intensive grazing (sheep pastures). Good nutrient tolerance (with the exception of high amounts of nitrogen), suitable for restorations up to the subalpine zone as well as in lower regions. Dog’s tail grass is an intermediate forage that is also used as a component in grassland mixtures.


Glumes similar, one-veined, 3-4.5 mm long, narrowly lanceolate as seen from a lateral view, acuminate, hyaline, glabrous, with a conspicuous scabrous keel.

Lemma five-veined, 3-4 mm long, lanceolate, apex narrowly rounded and mostly with a thin awn, up to 1 mm long, membranous, margins hyaline; glabrous, scabrous at upper part.

Palea about as long as the lemma, lanceolate, apex nicked, scabrous on the keels.

Thousand seed weight: 0.5-0.7 g.


(soil and climate)

Seed production is possible on all kinds of productive soils. Soils that are rich in nutrients and have good water management are preferred. However, heavily waterlogged or very light sandy soils are not suitable.


Dog’s tail grass is fairly tolerant to shade and therefore can be sown underneath winter wheat as well as spring corn. Open sowing should be carried out by the middle of June at the latest. Effort concerning weed control is needed.

Seed rate: 7-9 kg/ha are sufficient if growing conditions and germination capacity are satisfactory. If sown underneath a cover crop in autumn or blank in spring, the seed rate should be slightly increased.

Row spacing: 15-20 cm. Broadcast sowing (e.g. by removing sowing tubes) is also possible in combination with a curry comb.


Phosphorus and potassium: although dog’s tail grass requires few nutrients, a moderate fertilization (40-60 kg/ha P2O5 and 80-100 kg/ha K2O) has shown good results. Timely fertilization with liquid or solid manure (late summer, early autumn) stimulates the growth of the single plants until their resting period. Application of liquid manure in spring should be avoided because of undesirable nitrogen mobilization during an unfavourable vegetation stage.

Nitrogen: total requirement per harvesting growth is 70-80 kg/ha N. The plant should be fertilized in spring, only with mineral fertilizer, in amounts between 40 to 60 kg/ha depending on climate and weather.

Fourth panicle from the left shows optimal ripeness for harvesting


Dog’s tail grass has a slow initial development. Even if there is more fertilization, only a little leaf mass will be produced. Thus, as a rule, additional cutting is necessary only in autumn.

Particularly at lower locations, dog’s tail grass is sensitive to rust diseases. In this case it is essential to use fungicides or carry out early cutting.

Before sowing, only contact herbicides should be used, up to three days before the beginning of sowing. Hormone-type and broad-spectrum herbicides should generally not be used until the species reaches the three leaf stage.

Until autumn of the year of sowing and after the seed harvest, specific weed control can be successfully carried out with wiping wick and total herbicides (Glyphosate).


Resistance to lodging: high.

Shattering tendency: intermediate.

Ripeness: the culm changes colour to tawny and the pseudo-spike goes from light brown to a coffee colour. When unripe the seeds are stained bright greenish-yellow, becoming more and more tawny during ripening. Even at the beginning, the seeds can be rubbed off quite easily, although they are relatively firm.

There is a risk of flailing too early: in order to estimate the ripeness of the seeds, a nail test is advised. The seeds should at least be at the yellow ripeness stage.

Ripening period: does not flower too late; ripeness depends to a great extent on the weather. On average, it can be expected within the last decade of July.

Harvesting technique: direct threshing is recommended, which is very easy because of the high resistance to lodging. The seeds have an excellent seed flow and can be cleaned easily.

Crop yields: optimal maintenance allows yields between 200 and 600 kg/ha. Up to three harvesting years are possible.

Harvesting crested dog’s tail

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