Tall fescue is the most widely grown cool-season species in North Carolina. For a cool-season species, tall fescue is tolerant to heat and drought, disease resistant, and persists with minimum care. It has a tendency to clump due to its bunch-type growth habit and may need to be re-seeded each year in areas that exhibit thin growth patterns due to excessive summer stresses. Tall fescue is easily confused with Kentucky bluegrass, annual ryegrass, and perennial ryegrass. However, Kentucky bluegrass has a boat-shaped leaf tip and distinctive light-colored lines on both sides of the midrib. Tall fescue has rolled vernation in the leaf bud and perennial ryegrass has folded vernation. Also, tall fescue has rough leaf blade margins whereas annual and perennial ryegrass have smooth ones. Tall fescue and perennial ryegrass both have non-clasping auricles, whereas annual ryegrass has clasping auricles. The backside of the tall fescue leaf blade is less glossy than that of annual ryegrass.
Most turfgrasses are difficult to control within another turfgrass. Therefore, turf managers should select clean seed or vegetative sources for establishment, use an adapted turfgrass species and cultivar for their location, and use proper mowing and fertilization techniques to maintain a dense, actively growing, desired turf. Digging or removal with hand or mechanical equipment, for example a sod cutter, is one way to control undesired perennial turfgrasses. You may spot treat an infested area with an appropriate non-selective herbicide, realizing it will also kill the desired turfgrass.
leaves rolled in the bud
membranous; collar-like, 0.02 inches (0.5 mm) or less long, very jagged
Growth Season/Life Cycle
cool season turf or perennial weed
rudimentary; non-clasping, small, short, hairs on edges
Leaf blade tip shape
sharp-pointed; deeply ridged above, glossy below, prominent midrib below, edges rough
occasional and short
divided; may be hairy on edges
round; sheath is smooth