Tufted Hairgrass

Deschampsia cespitosa

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General Description

Tufted hairgrass is a short-lived, tufted, cool season, native perennial bunchgrass. Roots are shallow, fibrous, and dense. A mass of deep green leaves covers the crown. Densely tufted and with numerous stems, this native grass is found throughout British Columbia. Seed production is important for stand maintenance. It is valuable as a range grass and fairly resistant to close grazing. 


Native grass.


North America.


Generally considered a short-lived species


Reclamation, grazing. This highly variable species can adapt to stressful environments, and is often recommended for reclamation and rehabilitation projects.

Optimal Time of Use

Highly palatable, resistant to grazing, remains green throughout the summer, and good for pasture forage. Grazing should be deferred until the stands are established

Recovery After Use

High recovery if rotational grazing system is used. Despite this species’ resistance to grazing damage, it will decline with continuous season-long grazing.


Palatability/Nutritional Value

Very palatable early in the season with up to 20% protein content in early May.

Annual Precipitation min/max (mm)

400mm / 600mm

Drought Tolerance

Low tolerance.

Flooding Tolerance

Adapted to seasonally flooded areas.

Winter Hardiness

High winter hardiness.

Soil Texture Preference

Can be found in a wide variety of soil types from fine to coarse.

Erosion Control

Sometimes used to stabilize stream banks, canals, and shorelines. Tolerates heavy metal contamination. 

Salinity Tolerance

Tufted hairgrass is generally considered to have low salinity tolerance; however, it grows in salt marshes and coastal estuaries so some tolerance to salinity is inferred.

Acidity Tolerance

High tolerance; tolerant of pH down to 3.5.

Alkalinity Tolerance

Low tolerance, up to pH 7.5.

Seeds per kg

3,600,000 seeds/kg (1,633,000 seeds/lb)

Suggested Mixtures

Native species with similar tolerances for reclamation. Where species diversity is a goal, mixtures with less than 0.3 to 0.6 kg/ha (approx.1/4 to 1/2 lb/acre) may be required as heavier rates will have high tufted hairgrass stand content.

Ease of Establishment

Tufted hairgrass may be slow to establish the first year but will establish with adequate moisture. Seed selected from high elevations may have higher dormancy and is likely to germinate better in fall seeding applications. Seeds selected from low elevations have lower dormancy and thus can be planted in the fall or spring. Specific selections are often required for extreme soil conditions.


Tufted hair grass is considered moderately competitive as it can dominate if it is seeded too heavily in a mixture, and it can be a serious competitor with trees.

Management Considerations

Tufted hairgrass will decrease with continuous season long use. Spring grazing should be deferred in wet areas until soils are dry enough to prevent pugging and damage to plants.

 BC Rangeland Seeding Manual, USDA Plants database

Tufted hairgrass is adapted to moist draws and wet meadows in all zones in the region.

Tufted hairgrass is adapted to moist draws and wet meadows in all zones in the region.

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