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Deschampsia cespitosa

Tufted hair grass

Deschampsia cespitosa (Hegi, 1997)


Perennial, forming dense, large thickets. Young shoots numerous, intravaginal.

Culms are 20-150 cm high, slender to moderately thick, erect or geniculate at the base; two to three noded, nodes glabrous.

Leaf sheaths are grooved, keeled and scabrous only on the upper part, otherwise smooth and glabrous.

Leaf blades are 10-60 cm long, 2-5 mm wide, mostly flat (involute if there is soil drying), abaxially grooved, smooth and glabrous; extremely scabrous on the adaxially prominent ribs as well as at the margins.

Inflorescence a panicle, 10-50 cm long, up to 20 cm wide, spreading, open, pyramid-shaped; erect or slightly nodding at the apex, green and silvery, coated purple or golden.

Spikelets with two florets, 4-5 mm long. Sometimes produce leaf shoots.


This species occurs worldwide in temperate humid regions. In the Alps it can be found in the foothills and the montane, subalpine and alpine zones. Because of its deep roots, the species tolerates occasional drought in the topsoil. Its pronounced ability to crowd out other species results in generous growth. Deschampsia cespitosa var. alpina prefers depressions, slopes with soakage and sites around the leakage of spring water. The species grows on soils with a pH of 4.3-8.1 and grows at altitudes of up to 2 750 m in the Alps.

With regard to altitude, there is considerable ecological amplitude. This is the most important grass in the restoration of damp to alternating moist and dry locations. After restoration, spontaneous dispersal to sites appropriate to its habitat is often noted. Good stabilization of the soil and tolerance of nutrients; at higher locations it is grazed by livestock, but its forage value is low. On pastures it is controlled because it is a weed and also takes up space; different control methods are used.


Fruit 1.5-2.5 mm long, 0.6-0.8 mm wide, 0.5-0.6 mm thick; ovate-lanceolate.

Awn meandering, auburn, slightly longer than the lemma, arising almost basally.

Lemma hyaline, translucent, about twice as long as the fruit, dentate at the top; margins bent.

Dense white hair tuft at base.

Rachilla: with white hair.

Fruit 1.5 mm long, narrowly acuminate, brown.

Thousand seed weight: 0.2-0.4 g.


(soil and climate)

Seed cultivation is possible on any soil that is well supplied with water and has a pH range from 5.0 to 7.5. Tufted hair grass also tolerates compact and waterlogged soils, where farming is still possible.

The species is hardy and even tolerates strong frost.

Provided water supply is sufficient, fertility is satisfactory.


Tufted hair grass needs a well-prepared, fine, crumbly seedbed. It is sensitive to seed depths exceeding 0.5 cm. Seeds have sufficient seed flow and can be sown with an established seeder.

It is advisable to sow underneath spring corn or blank until the beginning of June, in order to guarantee the sufficient development and tillering the single plants. When sown on bare soil, attention should be paid to irrigation.

Seed rate: 6-8 kg/ha is sufficient for dense populations.

Row spacing: 15-20 cm, depending on the construction of the seeder. Broadcast sowing is also possible.


This species is robust and undemanding. Nevertheless, a good supply of nutrients is recommended in order to optimize the crop yield.

Phosphorus and potassium: On soils with an intermediate phosphorus and potassium content, basic fertilization with manure (liquid or solid 15-25 tonnes/ha) is sufficient in autumn. For mineral fertilization, 40-60 kg/ha P2O5 and 60-100 kg/ha K2O are recommended.

Nitrogen: a sufficient supply of nitrogen in autumn guarantees a satisfactory tillering. It should be borne in mind that an excessive supply of nitrogen in late spring may cause decreased formation of the spermatophores.

However, a certain amount of nitrogen is necessary for the formation of seeds: 50-70 kg/ha of N-total should be added in both autumn and early spring.


Tufted hair grass has a slow juvenile development. Therefore, crop residues should be removed quickly. It is recommended that the stubbles are cut once more.

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.

In order to obtain optimal development up to autumn of the seeding year, weed control has to start in time. This species is quite robust and resistant. However, specific control of weed grasses is not possible, as it is the case with the gender Festuca. The use of curry combs during mechanical weed control is well tolerated. Comparative experiments show that there will be higher yields in the second harvesting year if the board of the thresher is kept very high at the first harvest. This method also avoids the leaves being cut. Leaves die off over winter.

Legal regulations permit the cutting or burning of the biomass in early spring.


Resistance to lodging: high.

Shattering tendency: intermediate.

Ripeness: the flower spikes change colour from greenish-yellow to bright yellow or straw-coloured. The seeds will shed if touched only lightly. As with most species common to the habitat, great attention should be paid to specifiying the optimal harvest time. Daily or less frequent control of the population can help in deciding.

At the time of complete ripeness almost all species are very sensitive to wind and heavy rainfall, and it is possible to lose up to 70 percent of the crop within a few minutes.

Ripening period: depending on climate and location, ripening takes place between the beginning and the middle of July.

Harvesting technique: for threshing it is recommended that the rotational speed of the drum be slightly increased and the settings of the concave narrowed substantially. The seeds have sufficient seed flow and can be cleaned easily.

Crop yields: yields can fluctuate considerably from year to year. As a rule, higher yields can be expected in the second harvesting year. Average yield is around 160 kg/ha, where as single yields can be noticeably higher.

Harvesting of tufted hair grass

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