Scientific name:

Dactylis glomerata L.


Agronomic Grass


Bulkley - Nechako

Cariboo - Fraser Fort George


Northeast - Peace Liard

Thompson - Okanagan

Typical BEC range:

Coastal Douglas-fir

Coastal Western Hemlock

Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir

Interior Cedar-Hemlock

Interior Douglas-fir

Montane Spruce

Sub-Boreal Pine-Spruce

Sub-Boreal Spruce

Annual precip. min (mm):


Annual precip. max (mm):


Seed size:


Seeds per kg:


Typical seeding objectives:

Forage enhancement

Invasive plant suppression

PR Suitability note:

Orchardgrass may be suitable for some applications on warmer, sheltered sites in the Peace Region. It is important to choose varieties noted for winter-hardiness. On marginal sites, Orchardgrass may not be as competitive as other species and may not persist in a stand.

Key considerations:

Highly palatable grass with very good regrowth characteristics.

General Description:

Orchardgrass is a very productive, highly palatable, perennial bunchgrass. Root systems are extensive and fibrous with a distinctive bunch growth. Crowns increase in size over time through tiller production. Stems are 100 cm (39 in.) tall or more, and are distinctive in their flattening near the soil surface. Lots of basal leaves are produced, with smooth, folded leaves. Young leaves have boat-like tips, while older leaves have pointed tapered tips. Leaves are light green to blue green and up to 1 cm (3/8 in.) in width. Seed heads are up to 20 cm (8 in.) long with clustered spikelets. Each spikelet produces 3 to 4 small cross-pollinated flowers. Seeds are small but light, awned and chaffy. Orchardgrass seed viability declines rapidly in storage.


Native to Europe, northern Africa, and Asia. Most introductions into Canada came from Russia.


This introduced species is common throughout southern British Columbia.

Habitat and climate:

Orchardgrass is widespread in fields, meadows, and roadsides.


Used in pastures and to a limited extent for hay. Orchardgrass is also commonly used for seeding of roadsides, log landings, skid trails, and forested sites.

Optimal time of grazing use:

Can be grazed in the late spring once plants reach 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in.) in height, and repeatedly through mid- to late-autumn. It can be stockpiled for grazing later in the fall, but should be left to accumulate reserves in late summer and early fall. If livestock are allowed to continuously graze orchardgrass, they will preferentially graze it and damage its ability to withstand winter injury.

Recovery after use (rating):


Recovery after use:

With adequate moisture and fertility, orchard grass recovers very quickly after cutting or grazing. Can be regrazed after 4 to 6 weeks rest.

Forage yield (rating):


Forage yield:

Yields of 8,900 kg/ha (7,950 lb/acre) (Breton, AB., on Gray wooded soil) and 7,900 kg/ha (7,050 lb/acre) (Lacombe, AB., on Black soil) have been recorded when fertility is maintained and multiple clippings done. Recent first-year forage trial results in a dry year with one clipping at a non-irrigated site east of Williams Lake yielded 2,195 kg/ha (1,960 lb/acre) (Kay) and 3,261 kg/ha (2,911 lb/acre) (AC Nordic).

Palatability/Nutritional Value:

This is one of the most palatable grasses, with crude protein ranging from 13 to 15% and digestibility of 67% when in vegetative stage. However, quality drops off quickly when it forms seed heads. Livestock do very well on orchardgrass and seek it out in mixed stands. In early stages it is highly palatable to mule deer and elk.

Longevity (rating):



2 to 6 years and is longer lived in some ecosystems.

Persistence (rating):



Persistence of orchardgrass is very dependent on the ecosystem and variety.

Invasiveness (rating):



Orchardgrass is generally considered to be non-invasive, but is considered invasive and persistent in the Garry oak ecosystem on Vancouver Island.

Competitiveness (rating):



Lack of winter hardiness can limit competiveness in colder areas. In southern interior regions orchardgrass will co-exist with native species in most ecosystems.

Weed resistance (rating):


Weed resistance:

Even though orchardgrass stands can be relatively open, in productive pasture situations invading weeds have trouble establishing in them. In the Ponderosa Pine zone, orchardgrass is unable to compete with cheatgrass on uncultivated plots. On cultivated plots, orchardgrass had little effect on Dalmatian toadflax and St. John’s-wort.

Erosion control (rating):


Drought tolerance (rating):


Drought tolerance:

Orchardgrass is more drought tolerant than timothy, but not as much as bromegrasses. However, once a dry period ends, it recovers quickly.

Winter hardiness (rating):


Winter hardiness:

Winter hardiness is dependent on snow cover conditions, carryover stubble height, and variety improvements. Carry over stubble height should be should be at least 20 cm (8 in.) in colder regions.

Soil texture preference (rating):


Soil texture preference:

Orchard grass is suited to fine- to medium-textured soils with a high water holding capacity, and does well in areas with 45 cm (18 in.) of moisture.

Flooding tolerance (rating):


Flooding tolerance:

Has moderate tolerance to spring flooding of up to 1 week with excess moisture in the root zone. However, it does not do well with waterlogging of root zone during growing season.

Salinity tolerance (rating):


Salinity tolerance:

Tolerates soil pH levels as low as 5.0, but does not do well on high pH or alkaline soils.

Shade tolerance :

Moderate shade tolerance and heat tolerance.

Pests and/or disease threats:

Pest threats include cereal leaf beetle, European skipper, grass plant bugs, white grubs, and grasshoppers.

Ease of establishment (rating):


Ease of establishment:

Orchardgrass grows as vigorous seedlings that establish quickly, are shade tolerant, and will tolerate a companion or nurse crop. Spring growth is somewhat slower than other grasses.

Suggested mixtures:

Alfalfa, clovers.

Management Considerations:

It responds well to fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Must go into the winter with enough residue to store carbohydrates in the stem to survive. Snow cover is important to insulate the crowns. Most productive with rotational grazing.