Plant Guide > Grasses > Orchard Grass

Orchard Grass

Orchard GrassDactylis glomerata L.

Spreading tufts of the blue-green leaves of Orchard Grass are very noticeable by the waysides of early spring, before the pageant of summer brings a score of grasses to every lane and byway.

In many states this is one of the most common species, and is the first of the larger grasses to bloom. The stout stems grow rapidly, and when clover fields are sweet with blossoms the coarse panicles of Orchard Grass are painted with large anthers of purple and yellow, terra-cotta and pink, the colour varying with the soil and the abundance of light.

The few branches of the flowering-head spread stiffly, and near their extremities the spikelets are crowded in dense, one-sided clusters.

Orchard Grass is one of the most widely known of cultivated grasses, and is one that is highly valued by the farmer, since the rank growth, both in the pasture and as aftermath in the field, makes it for him the earliest grass in spring and the latest in autumn.

It grows especially well in shaded places, where few grasses attain luxuriant growth, and in old orchards the coarse tussocks are very common. The sheaths differ from those of the majority of grasses in that they are perfectly closed until the inflorescence, forcing its way up, causes them to split.

Like many grasses that were brought from Europe at an early date, Orchard Grass attracted little attention in England until reintroduced to that country from America. The English name of Cock's-foot Grass is derived from a fancied resemblance between the branching panicle and a bird's foot.

Orchard Grass. Cock's-foot Grass. Dactylis glomerata L.

Perennial, tufted. Naturalized from Europe.

Stem 2-5 ft. tall, coarse, erect. Ligule 1"-3" long. Leaves 4'-14' long, rough, flat or slightly keeled.

Panicle 3'-9' long, branches coarse, rough, widely spreading in flower. Spikelets 3-5-flowered, 3"-4" long, green or purple, in dense 1-sided clusters at the ends of the branches. Outer scales unequal, keeled, sharply pointed; flowering scales awnpointed, rough. Stamens 3, anthers yellow, terracotta, pink, or purple.

Fields, waysides, and dooryards. May to July.

New Brunswick to Manitoba, south to South Carolina, Kansas, and Colorado.

Orchard Grass picture

Orchard Grass seed