The Life Cycle of Tall Fescue Grass

Overview

A cool-season perennial, tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) grows in clumps and is widely used as an animal forage during the fall and winter. During the summer and spring, the grass contains toxic alkaloids. When grown as a lawn or turfgrass, tall fescue produces year-round green color, vigorous growth, wear resistance and shade tolerance. It has spread widely throughout most of the United States and Canada, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Symbiotic Relationship

Tall fescue shares a symbiotic relationship with a fungus known as "endophyte." The fungus lives in the cells of the grass but does no damage to the host. Within the host the endophyte produces alkaloids that render the grass unpalatable to insects and nematodes. The fungus also appears to give the tall fescue increased heat and drought tolerance, according to the Southern Illinois University.

Stem Production

In the spring the tall fescue produces new leaf blades. At the stem of each blade the endophyte fungus develops. In May the grass begins to send out stems in preparation for reproduction. The endophyte fungus moves into the stems which helps protect them from being consumed by livestock or insects, according to the West Virginia University. On the top of each stem a seed head begins to form.

Seed Development and Dispersal

The endophyte moves from the stems of the grass into the seed heads. Once the endophyte enters the seed heads of the tall fescue seeds are produced. The endophyte enters the seeds. The wind disperses the seeds. When the seeds come into contact with the soil, germination begins. Each of the new seeds contains the endophyte fungus so the cycle begins again. After the seeds form and disperse, the tall fescue grass continues to grow into the fall.

Turf and Lawn

Tall fescue is widely grown as a turf and lawn grass. It offers exceptional wear tolerance, which makes it an ideal grass for parks and golf-courses. The grass grows rapidly and spreads using small rhizomes. The grass grows well in water-logged areas and offers drought tolerance once established. During severe drought the grass goes dormant and does not grow, according to the Texas A & M University.

Care

Tall fescue requires frequent mowing when grown as a lawn or turf grass. It enjoys a mowing height of 2 to 3.5 inches, according to the University of Illinois. Spreading 6 to 9 pounds of tall fescue per 1,000 square feet produces a lush lawn. The grass quickly spreads when established through rhizomes. Tall fescue does not develop thatch when grown as a lawn because of its clumping ability.

Keywords: tall fescue care, tall fescue growth, Festuca arundinacea care

About this Author

Kimberly Sharpe is a freelance writer with a diverse background. She has worked as a Web writer for the past four years. She writes extensively for Associated Content where she is both a featured home improvement contributor (with special emphasis on gardening) and a parenting contributor. She also writes for Helium. She has worked professionally in the animal care and gardening fields.