Orchard grass

(Dactylis glomerata L.)

Orchard grass is a long-lived, perennial bunchgrass, 1 to 4 feet tall, sometimes growing in large circular clumps. Its color varies from rather dark green in full sunlight to light green in moderate shade. Young leaf blades are sharply folded, but ope n out flat and about 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide as they mature. Leaf edges when rubbed toward the base have a sandpaper-like feel. The inflorescence is a panicle 2 to 6 inches long with stout, erect or erect-spreading branches with spikelets near the ends. The spikelets have two to five florets and are often somewhat asymmetrical.
Distribution and habitat
Orchard grass was introduced from Eurasia and is now found throughout much of the country. It is usually found at altitudes above 5,000 feet in open woodlands and forests. Orchard grass is more shade tolerant than most grasses.
General information
Orchard grass is highly palatable and produces abundant forage, particularly early in the season. Orchard grass is moderately nutritious and highly palatable to cattle, and domestic sheep and goats. (The persistent, green, basal rosette provides good winter forage for deer and elk.) Cattle will eat orchard grass preferentially in early spring and summer, up to 50 percent of total diet. As a forage species, orchard grass does not withstand continuous heavy use; it is therefore recommended for early sea son, moderate grazing, particularly during the spring when it is growing most actively. It will not withstand long-continued heavy use. Grazing tends to increase production the following spring.