Fescue is a strong, low-maintenance grass common on playgrounds and golf courses because of its hardiness, but it is a perplexing weed in the lawns of gardeners maintaining non-fescue grass in the northern United States. The easiest way to tell fescues apart is to observe the appearance and growing habits of the different types of fescue.
Fescue grasses are identified using two basic types of fescue: tall fescue and fine fescues. The varieties of fine fescue grasses are numerous and can be identified by their subtle differences. Common types of fine fescue grass include red fescue, hard fescue and chewings fescue. Fine fescue grasses have smaller and narrower grass blades than tall fescue. Healthy fine fescue is softer and smoother to touch than tall fescue.
Identifying fescue grass can help you best choose which grass will grow well in your geographic area. For an existing fescue lawn, fescue identification can help the gardener decide how best to care for the lawn. When facing an unwanted invading fescue as a weed in a non-fescue lawn, understanding the traits of the types of fescue grass can help you determine how quickly the fescue infestation might spread so you can decide the best way to get rid of it.
Hard fescue is most often found in the northern United States and Canada. When it is growing in, hard fescue can appear clumpy, and it grows slowly. Because it is resistant to fungal diseases, hard fescue is a preferred lawn grass in areas where fungal diseases like dollar spot and brown patch diseases are common lawn problems. Hard fescue is somewhat drought tolerant and can stay green during periods of little rain.
Red fescue is a grass well-suited for cool, mountain areas. According to Purdue University's "Cool-Season Grasses," red fescue has slender, dark green blades and grows evenly when infrequently mowed. Red fescue is a low-maintenance grass that takes well to sloped ground and high altitudes where the weather is cool. Red fescue is resistant to a buildup of dead grass under the surface, commonly referred to as thatch. In addition to high-altitude areas, red fescue is found near the beach in the northwest United States and in the areas near the Great Lakes.
Chewings fescue stands apart from other types of fescues because it can grow well in areas with almost total shade. Though it grows in similar areas as red fescue grass and hard fescue, chewings fescue can be identified if it is thriving in a meadow of sandy grown where little else can grow. Because it will live in ground that is not hospitable to other plants, proper care for chewings fescue renders a clumpy grassy area with few weeds.
Tall fescue grass is clumpy, thick and coarse to the touch. Unlike fine fescues, tall fescue is more often seen in the southern or southwestern United States, in areas with temperate summers and winters that do not have deep frost.