Lolium arundinaceum - (Schreb.) S.J. Darbyshire
Kentucky Fescue
Other English Common Names: Tall Fescue
Other Common Names: tall fescue
Synonym(s): Festuca arundinacea Schreb. ;Schedonorus arundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort.
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Schedonorus arundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort. (TSN 784875)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.151321
Element Code: PMPOA3U070
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Grass Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Monocotyledoneae Cyperales Poaceae Lolium
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Concept Reference Code: B99KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Lolium arundinaceum
Taxonomic Comments: Kentucky fescue, or tall meadow fescue, is usually treated as Festuca arundinacea, although treated as Lolium arundinaceum by Kartesz (1999). A proposal to conserve the name Schedonorus arundinaceus would allow the same epithet to be used if this grass is classified in that genus (Soreng et al., Taxon 50: 915-917, 2001); otherwise, its name would be S. phoenix. The name Festuca elatior, sometimes considered to apply to this species, has been formally rejected nomenclaturally. LEM 16Oct01.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (13Oct2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNA), Alaska (SNA), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Northwest Territories (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Quebec (SNA), Saskatchewan (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, ALexotic, ARexotic, AZexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NEexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NFexotic, NSexotic, NTexotic, ONexotic, QCexotic, SKexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: High/Medium
Rounded I-Rank: High
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Lolium arundinaceum (tall fescue), is a non-native species that has escaped from cultivation throughout the United States. It currently is known from nearly every state in the country, including Alaska and Hawaii. It threatens several natural communities, including fens, prairies, woodlands, salt desert scrub, sagebrush, and other grasslands. This species is usually infected with a fungal endophyte which is estimated to be in at least 75% of tall fescue plants in the country. When infected with the fungus tall fescue is allelopathic, inhibiting other plants from growing around it, and is poisonous to animals including soil organisms. In addition, when tall fescue is infected with the fungus it produces more seed, these seeds produce larger more vigorous seedlings which are more capable of persisting than those not infected and the plants have high instances of tillering. Overall, this species is an aggressive non-native species, especially when infected with the fungal endophyte and it is suspected that this species is currently spreading due to the fact that it is still planted.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: High
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: High/Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 06Dec2005
Evaluator: Oliver, L., rev. Maybury (2005)
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Tall fescue is native to Europe (Randall and Marinelli 1996).

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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: Lolium arundinacea is a non-native well established throughout the United States (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: Tall fescue has invaded prairies and other native herbaceous communities in the midwest and in northern Texas (Randall and Marinelli 1996).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Moderate significance
Comments: Much of Tall fescue is infected with an endophytic fungus that fortifies this species and makes is generally unpalatable to grazing animals (Hensen 2001). Some 75% of this species in the United States is infected with this endophyte, which in turn allows the species to alter the soil characteristics (Hensen 2001). When the fescue is infected with the endophyte this species becomes allelopathic, killing soil organisms from nematodes to beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. It is documented that at least twenty insect species from ten families are detrimentally affected (Hensen 2001). While the infected fescue affects a biotic aspect of the ecosystem where it occurs, the alteration of the soil organisms presumably changes the character of the soil and ultimately changes what species can grow in the soil.

Further, this species when infected with the fungus does impact succession in fields as the native plants are outcompeted, which results in a greater density of the fescue (Batcher 2003).

Noted as causing "significant" negative impacts to ecosystem processes (NRCS 2002).

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Moderate significance
Comments: The tall fescue does affect at least one vegetation layer. This species is capable of shading herbaceous plants that might be growing around or underneath. This species grows to be 2m tall (Batcher 2003). Also, it is documented that this species affects soil organisms, which is another layer below ground (Hensen 2001).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:High significance
Comments: The tall fescue, when infected with the endophyte, is highly detrimental to both the plant and animal community composition. The following groups of animal species are negatively impacted by this species game birds, such as dove and quail, soil organisms and small mammals such as voles. The endophyte produces chemicals which are toxic to the animals that eat the fescue or its seeds (Hensen 2001). Futher, this fescue when infected with the fungus is allelopathic causing a decline in plant diversity. Studies reveal that the fescue is allelopathic to Brassica napus (rape), Lotus corniculatus (bird's foot trefoil), Trifolium pratense (white clover), Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet gum) and Pinus taeda (loblolly pine) (Hensen 2001). Other plant species' growth has also been reduced because of this species too, including Cornus amomum, Robinia pseudoacacia, Juglans nigra, Quercus rubra and Platanus occidentalis (Batcher 2003). The Georgia 5 cultivar of tall fescue was noted as causing "major negative alterations in community composition" and as being "highly competitive for limiting factors (NRCS 2002).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Many species, both animal and plant are negatively affected by this species, however, no information was found suggesting that the tall fescue disproportionately affects an individual species.

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Moderate significance
Comments: It is known that this species impacts rare fens and remnant prairies (Randall and Marinelli 1996, Batcher 2003).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: High

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: This species is known from nearly every state in the United States (Kartesz 1999), and it is reported in most ecosystems (Batcher 2003).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Moderate significance
Comments: The tall fescue is certainly having negative impacts on biodiversity in many areas where it does occur. Its generalized range in the United States is nearly the entire country (Kartesz 1999) and it is reported to have invaded most ecosystems (Batcher 2003).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High/Moderate significance
Comments: This species has invaded many ecosystems throughout the US (Batcher 2003, TNC 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Lolium arundinaceum has invaded savannas, open marshes, fen systems, prairies, woodlands and other herbaceous plant communities (Batcher, Randall and Marinelli 1996). It is also reported in salt desert scrub, sagebrush and various forested communities (Walsh 1995).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is still being planted for various uses, and while there is an effort being made to plant plants that aren't infected with the endophyte (Hensen 2001) there is still the potential of the fungus to spread from infected populations of tall fescue to uninfected populations. When infected with the endophyte, tall fescue more negatively impacts the areas where it is growing, namely because it becomes allelopathic (Batcher 2003).

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Insignificant
Comments: Since this species already has invaded nearly every state in the United States (Kartesz 1999), including Alaska and Hawaii, so greater than 90% of its potential range in the country is currently occupied.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Spread by seeds and is still planted for various uses.

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Moderate significance
Comments: This species probably is expanding in at least some directions locally. It is reported that some 75% of tall fescue plants are infected with the fungal endophyte (Hensen 2001). Plants that are infected have several mechanisms that allow them to spread and persist. Specifically, plants that are infected with the fungal endophyte are allelopathic, and produce toxins that leach into the soil and inhibit the growth of other native plant species which ultimately allows for space for more fescue plants. Also, the endophyte is transferred to the seeds of infected plants and seeds that are infected germinate more quickly and produce larger more vigorous seedlings which have a better chance of survival (Batcher 2003). Finally, plants that are infected with the fungus are produce more seeds and have higher instances of tillering (Batcher 2003). All of these qualities of tall fescue plants infected with the fungal endophyte suggest local expansion is occurring.

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is capable of invading many areas with different ecological attributes. It is documented that this species has spread into disturbed places as well as undisturbed intact natural areas such as prairies, marshes and fens (Batcher 2003). Batcher 2003 says that tall fescue 'can invade, open, natural communities, and displace native species. This is most likely when F. arundinacea already grows in the area ... and when the natural community has either been subejcted to disturbance or where the natural fire regime has been suppressed". Tall fescue is tolerant of a wide range of climatic conditions and soils, but prefers cool and humid conditions (Hensen 2001).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Unknown

16. Reproductive Characteristics:Low significance
Comments: Tall fescue spreads by tillering as well as by seed, that is, vegetatively as well as sexually (Batcher 2003).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: High/Medium

17. General Management Difficulty:High/Moderate significance
Comments: NRCS (2002) notes that effective control is difficult, requiring more than one chemical or mechanical treatment. Several methods are used to control the species including the use of herbicide and burning (Batcher 2003). Batcher also remarks that little information is available about the control of this species in natural areas.

18. Minimum Time Commitment:High/Low significance
Comments: Since this species is managed for using several techniques and it probably does take at least one year to manage it, however, it could take much more time. No information was found mentioning the amount of time needed to eradicate tall fescue from areas.

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Repeated and varied measures must be taken; NRCS (2002) indicates that control methods will cause major effects on other plants: "kills them."

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Planted as a forage and cover crop.

Other Considerations: Lolium arundinaceum, or tall fescue, includes cultivars 'Alta', 'Goar', and 'Fawn' used in western states and 'Kentucky 31' used in eastern and central states, and 'Kenmount' is used in the Great Plains and the southeast (Batcher 2003). The cultivar Georgia 5 was released for use in the southern Coastal Plain by the USDA Soil Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Univ. of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations. This species is commonly infected with the fungal endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum (=Acremonium coenophialum) (Batcher).

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Aiken, S.G. and S.J. Darbyshire. 1990. Fescue Grasses of Canada. Publication 1844/E, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa. 113 pp.

  • Batcher, M. 2003. Element Stewardship Abstract for Festuca arundinacea (Schreb.) Synonym: Festuca elatior L. The Nature Conservancy. Online at: Accessed on October 6, 2004.

  • Dore, W.G. and J. McNeill. 1980. Grasses of Ontario. Monograph 26, Agriculture Canada, Research Branch, Biosystematics Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario. 566 pp.

  • Foggi, B., H. Scholz, and B. Valdés. 2005. The Euro+Med treatment of Festuca (Gramineae) - new names and new combinations in Festuca and allied genera. Willdenowia 35: 241-244.

  • Hensen, J. H. 2001. Tall Fescue Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) S. J. Darbyshire. NRCS Plant Guide. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Lousiana. Accessed online Oct. 2004.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Meades, S.J. & Hay, S.G; Brouillet, L. 2000. Annotated Checklist of Vascular Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University Botanical Gardens, St John's NF. 237pp.

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service [NRCS]. 2002. Environmental evaluation of plant materials releases. Unpublished evaluation forms. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Plant Materials Center, Beltsville, MD.

  • Randall, J.M. and J. Marinelli (eds.) 1996. Invasive plants: weeds of the global garden. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York.

  • Soreng, R.J., and E.E. Terrell. 1997. Taxonomic notes Schedonorus, a segregate genus from Festuca or Lolium, with a new nothogenus, x Schedololium, and new combinations. Phytologia 83(2):85-88.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • Walsh, R. A. 1995. Festuca arundinacea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Labratory (Producer). Available: http://www/fs/fed/is/database/feis/ [2004, October6].

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