Bulbous Canarygrass (Aquatica)

The Bulbous Canarygrass (Aquatica) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) and has its most active growth period in the fall and winter and spring . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until spring. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Bulbous Canarygrass (Aquatica) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Bulbous Canarygrass (Aquatica) will reach up to 4 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Bulbous Canarygrass (Aquatica) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 7°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Koleagrass was developed for improvement of annual grass range. Its forage production is typically no greater than can be expected from native range. However, this perennial produces forage earlier in the season and stays green longer. Fertilized Koleagrass can extend the green feed period two months or more in the winter compared to unfertilized native grasses, and can add about one month to the green feed period in spring when moisture is not limiting. NOTE: This species has been known to have toxic effects on sheep and cattle.

Koleagrass is now considered the standard perennial grass for improvement of annual grass range in California. Please consult the Related Web Sites on the Plant Profile for further information on this species.

General Characteristics

General: Grass Family (Poaceae). Koleagrass is an introduced, tall, robust, rapid-developing bunchgrass with short rhizomes. This species includes both Phalaris tuberosa var. stenoptera (previously known as Harding grass) and Phalaris tuberosa var. hirtiglumis (previously known as koleagrass). P.t. var. hirtiglumis was recognized to have bigger seeds, more vigorous seedlings, yellow-green leaves, and hairy glumes. Both of these varieties have been submerged taxonomically into Phalaris aquatica.

Required Growing Conditions

Koleagrass was introduced from Morocco. Used for pasture and erosion control in California and sparingly in other parts of the southwestern U.S. Consult the PLANTS Web site for its U.S. distribution.

Adaptation Koleagrass is adapted in California below 2,000 feet to the Mediterranean-like climatic zone or where frost heaving is not a problem. It will grow where there is 12 inches of annual rainfall and there is soil profile development (clay layer). Moisture holding capacity of the soil becomes less critical as rainfall increases. It establishes itself early, grows well during cold winter months, and reseeds readily.

Cultivation and Care

Seedbed Preparation: Good stands require a spring-summer fallow to reduce competition from annuals in fall. Fall seeding is done on a firm, weed-free seedbed prepared after the first effective rains (1.5-2.0 inches). This ensures adequate moisture to support seedling growth and destroys the first crop of volunteer annuals. If fallow is prepared before weed species produce seed, the fall weed competition is reduced, but not eliminated. Fall seeding can follow a summer clean-up crop of Sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor ssp. drummondii). Planting is accomplished directly in the Sudangrass stubble.

Method of Seeding: Best results are obtained by drilling the seed. Use of a common grain drill is possible if the seed is first mixed with rice hulls as a dilutor and the drill is properly calibrated. If seed is broadcast and covered by harrowing or dragging, the seeding rate is increased 1.5 times. Seeding depth should be ΒΌ-1/2 inch in all cases.

Weed Control: During the establishment season, mowing may be necessary to reduce competition from annuals. Set the mower at a height compatible with regrowth of the koleagrass and other perennials. Remove as little leaf area of the koleagrass and other perennials as possible so that development will not be retarded.

Fertilization: Do not apply fertilizer in the establishment year. In the second and subsequent years, 200 pounds per acre 16-20-0 (ammonium-phosphate-sulfate) is recommended in the fall.


Weediness This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed.

General Upkeep and Control

Koleagrass should not be grazed until completion of growth the first season. At the end of the green feed period dry forage can be grazed if the plants are large enough to resist pulling by livestock. An average stubble height of three to four inches should be maintained.

Established Stands: Koleagrass starts growth in fall coincident with the first rains. Mature stands of koleagrass should be ready for grazing (6-8 inches high) by early January. The amount of growth depends on the amount of rain, its distribution, temperature and soil fertility. Cold tolerance is improved by the inclusion of phosphorus with nitrogen during fall fertilization. Grass can be grazed at range readiness without harm to the plant so long as the ground is firm and not so wet that damage from trampling might occur. Grazing should stop when fertilized annual range is ready for use or when there is a three-inch average stubble height. Grazing will normally end in late February. However, lack of moisture or poor growing conditions may require earlier termination. Infrequently, when abundant rainfall occurs in late winter, grazing can continue through mid-March. Following winter grazing, the perennials, including koleagrass, must be rested to allow recovery and re-growth. This deferment period should continue until the annual range grasses begin to dry up and lose their high feed value. By the time the annual range is dry, koleagrass will have produced seed and stored food reserves in the roots. The leaves will still be green and will remain green for about one month after the annuals are dry. This palatable forage can be grazed heavily until the average stubble height is three inches. When grazing ends, many plants will be heavily used, others partially grazed, and there will be numerous seed stalks left.

Pests and Potential Problems None

Control Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA, NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective.

Seeds and Plant Production Koleagrass can be grown as an annual for purposes of seed production. At the Lockeford Plant Materials Center, irrigated rows spaced 30 inches apart yield 400-600 pounds per acre of seed when harvested with a binder in late spring following fall seeding. Koleagrass seed averages 267,000 seeds per pound.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Fall, Winter, Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 4
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Spring
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature 7
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Rapid
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.4–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 16–16 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Minimum Frost-Free Days 240 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Medium
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA