1. Family: Poaceae Barnhart
    1. Genus: Deschampsia P.Beauv.
      1. Deschampsia cespitosa (L.) P.Beauv.

        Known for its bright, silvery panicles and rough-textured leaves, Deschampsia cespitosa is beautiful in appearance but can be a troublesome weed due to its persistence in a wide range of harsh environments. It has a high tolerance of metal-contaminated soils and thrives not only in nutrient-rich, poorly drained habitats, but also in well-drained, nutrient-poor soils. In some parts of the world it even colonises volcanic rocks, as well as sandy and gravelly beaches.


    Gramineae, W. D. Clayton, S. M. Phillips & S. A. Renvoize. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1974

    Densely tufted perennial tussock grass; culms erect, 30–160 cm. high.
    Leaves mostly basal; blades mostly 7–40 cm. long and 2–5 mm. wide, flat, or rolled when dry, coarsely ridged above, scabrid on the ridges and harsh to the touch; ligule scarious, up to 15 mm. long.
    Panicle oblong, 10–30 cm. long, loose or rarely ± contracted.
    Spikelets narrowly oblong, 2–6.5 mm. long (4–6.5 mm. in Flora area), 2(rarely 3)-flowered, green or purple with a golden or silvery sheen; lower glume oblong to narrowly elliptic, acute or obtuse, the upper elliptic, 3-nerved, acute; lemma elliptic-oblong, 3–4.5 mm. long, 4-toothed, or 2-lobed with the lobes lacerate, awned from near the base, less often from one-third or even half way up the back; awns mostly straight, capillary, 3–5 mm. long, scarcely projecting beyond the glumes.

    Gramineae, W. D. Clayton. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3:2. 1972

    A harsh-leaved perennial up to 1 m high.
    Perennial; caespitose; clumped densely. Culms erect; 20-200 cm long; 1-3 -noded. Leaves mostly basal. Leaf-sheaths smooth, or scaberulous. Ligule an eciliate membrane; 10-15 mm long; acute. Leaf-blades flat, or involute; 10-60 cm long; 2-5 mm wide; coriaceous; stiff. Leaf-blade surface ribbed; scabrous; rough adaxially. Leaf-blade margins scabrous. Leaf-blade apex acute, or acuminate.
    Inflorescence a panicle. Panicle open; oblong, or ovate; 10-50 cm long; 3-20 cm wide. Panicle branches scabrous. Spikelets solitary. Fertile spikelets pedicelled. Pedicels filiform; 1-6 mm long; scabrous.
    Spikelets comprising 2 fertile florets; with a barren rhachilla extension. Spikelets lanceolate, or oblong; laterally compressed; 4-6 mm long; breaking up at maturity; disarticulating below each fertile floret. Rhachilla internodes definite; pilose. Floret callus pilose.
    Spikelets comprising 2 fertile florets; with a barren rhachilla extension. Spikelets lanceolate, or oblong; laterally compressed; 4-6 mm long; breaking up at maturity; disarticulating below each fertile floret. Rhachilla internodes definite; pilose. Floret callus pilose.
    Glumes persistent; similar; exceeding apex of florets, or reaching apex of florets; similar to fertile lemma in texture; shiny. Lower glume lanceolate; 4-6 mm long; 1 length of upper glume; membranous; 1-keeled; 1 -veined. Lower glume lateral veins absent. Lower glume apex acute. Upper glume elliptic; 4-6 mm long; 1.2 length of adjacent fertile lemma; membranous; 1-keeled; 3 -veined. Upper glume apex acute.
    Fertile lemma oblong; 3-4.5 mm long; membranous; shiny; without keel; 5 -veined. Lemma apex erose, or dentate; 4 -fid; truncate; awned; 1 -awned. Principal lemma awn dorsal; arising 0-0.25(-0.5) way up back of lemma; straight; 3-5 mm long overall; not or scarcely exserted from spikelet. Palea keels scaberulous. Rhachilla extension 0.5 length of fertile floret; pilose.
    Lodicules 2; membranous. Anthers 3; 1.5-2 mm long. Ovary glabrous.
    Caryopsis with adherent pericarp. Hilum punctiform.
    Europe: northern, central, southwestern, southeastern, and eastern. Africa: north, west-central tropical, northeast tropical, east tropical, and south. Asia-temperate: Siberia, Soviet far east, Soviet Middle Asia, Caucasus, western Asia, China, Mongolia, and eastern Asia. Asia-tropical: India. Australasia: Australia and New Zealand. North America: Subarctic, eastern Canada, northwest USA, north-central USA, northeast USA, southwest USA, south-central USA, southeast USA, and Mexico. South America: western South America, Brazil, and southern South America. Antarctic: Subantarctic islands.
    Aveneae. CEH.

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Tufted hair-grass is a large, tussock-forming grass, once used to form the roof of one of the oldest thatched cottages in England.

    Known for its bright, silvery panicles and rough-textured leaves, Deschampsia cespitosa is beautiful in appearance but can be a troublesome weed due to its persistence in a wide range of harsh environments. It has a high tolerance of metal-contaminated soils and thrives not only in nutrient-rich, poorly drained habitats, but also in well-drained, nutrient-poor soils. In some parts of the world it even colonises volcanic rocks, as well as sandy and gravelly beaches.

    A study conducted in the 1970s showed that woodland coppicing in the Chiltern Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in southern England) resulted in an explosive spread of D. cespitosa which went on to dominate the whole ground-flora. Other studies have shown D. cespitosa to be a serious competitor with other plants, especially in marshy areas. The coarse nature of the leaves and their high silica content make tufted hair-grass unpalatable for grazing animals, thus contributing to its success.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Found in both lowland and montane habitats throughout Europe and across northern Asia, extending into Central and Southwest Asia. Also present in the Middle East, China, Japan, the Indian Subcontinent, parts of North and Central Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, the United States and South America.

    In Great Britain, Deschampsia cespitosa has been recorded in virtually every 10 km² of the National Grid system, which is used by recorders to map the distribution of plants. It is slightly less abundant in Ireland, but nevertheless very common there too.It is a principal component of several distinct types of grassland community, for example the Holcus lanatus (Yorkshire fog) / Deschampsia cespitosa grassland associated with poorly-drained permanent pastures. In Britain alone, D. cespitosa has been found growing in association with more than 1,000 plant species.


    Deschampsia cespitosa is a densely tufted perennial grass, often forming large tussocks. The culms (stems) are erect and 20-200 cm tall. The leaves can be flat or loosely inrolled and are 10-60 cm long, usually arising from the base of the plant. This species can be distinguished by its leaves, which are rough to the touch, and the narrow, sharply pointed ligule found at the junction of the leaf blade and the leaf sheath that encircles the stem.


    Tufted hair-grass is cultivated as an ornamental and was used as a thatching material in the past. Although usually avoided by cattle, the tussocks are eaten by horses and rabbits when other food is in short supply. The foliage can also be cut for hay and silage. Deschampsia cespitosa has a broad ecological range and is useful in vegetation restoration projects. In the United States, for example, it has been used to stabilise slopes and to revegetate mine spoils. Tufted hair-grass is one of the food plants of the caterpillars of two British butterflies - the ringlet and the grayling.

    Herbarium specimen linked to historic thatched cottage

    Dried plant specimens from around the world are housed in Kew’s Herbarium. One such specimen was collected from the thatch of a cottage in Horton, Gloucestershire dating back to 1460 or earlier. The cottage was ear-marked for demolition, as it had deteriorated to such a poor state of repair that its residents were re-housed in 1966. But a member of the Gloucestershire Council applied for a preservation order after noting its historic value and restoration work was soon underway. It was during the renovation that sections of the old grass-thatched roof were discovered and samples of the grass were sent to Kew. The material was identified as Deschampsia cespitosa by Mr A.J. Willis in November 1967, and the specimen has remained in the Herbarium ever since.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Collections of  Deschampsia cespitosa  seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    See Kew's Seed Information Database for further information on Deschampsia cespitosa seeds

    This species at Kew

    Deschampsia cespitosa can be seen growing in the Grass Garden at Kew.

    Pressed and dried specimens are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers from around the world by appointment. The details, including images, of some of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

    The Economic Botany Collection at Kew includes samples of tufted hair-grass.


    Rough grassland, marshes, water-meadows, woodland and moorland. Also occurs on riverbanks, fens and artificial habitats such as spoil heaps.
    Widespread and abundant; not of conservation concern.

    None known.

    Ornamental, thatching material, habitat restoration, coarse fodder for livestock.



    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Alaska, Albania, Alberta, Aleutian Is., Altay, Amur, Antipodean Is., Arizona, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, British Columbia, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, California, Cameroon, Central European Rus, Chatham Is., China North-Central, China South-Central, Chita, Colorado, Congo, Connecticut, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, East Himalaya, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Føroyar, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Greenland, Gulf of Guinea Is., Hungary, Iceland, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Inner Mongolia, Iran, Ireland, Irkutsk, Italy, Japan, Kamchatka, Kazakhstan, Kentucky, Kenya, Khabarovsk, Kirgizstan, Korea, Krasnoyarsk, Krym, Kuril Is., Labrador, Macquarie Is., Magadan, Maine, Manchuria, Manitoba, Maryland, Masachusettes, Mexico Northeast, Michigan, Minnesota, Mongolia, Montana, Nepal, Netherlands, Nevada, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New South Wales, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Newfoundland, North Carolina, North Caucasus, North Dakota, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Northwest Territorie, Norway, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ohio, Ontario, Oregon, Pakistan, Pennsylvania, Poland, Portugal, Primorye, Prince Edward I., Qinghai, Québec, Rhode I., Romania, Rwanda, Sakhalin, Saskatchewan, Sicilia, South Dakota, South European Russi, Spain, Svalbard, Sweden, Switzerland, Tadzhikistan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tasmania, Tibet, Transcaucasus, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Tuva, Uganda, Ukraine, Utah, Uzbekistan, Vermont, Victoria, Virginia, Washington, West Himalaya, West Siberia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Xinjiang, Yakutskiya, Yugoslavia, Yukon, Zaïre

    Introduced Into:

    Argentina Northwest, Argentina South, Bolivia, Brazil South, Cape Provinces, Chile Central, Chile South, Hawaii, Lesotho, South Australia, South Georgia

    Common Names

    Tufted hair-grass

    Deschampsia cespitosa (L.) P.Beauv. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Nov 1, 1967 Whitemore, B.W. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000674147
    Chile K000308340
    Chile K000308350
    Fishlock [139], Uganda K000345022 Unknown type material
    Schimper [555], Ethiopia K000345024
    Schimper [1330], Ethiopia K000345025
    Hatschbach, G. [78261], Brazil K001101057
    Hatschbach, G. [15016], Brazil K001101058
    Hatschbach, G. [30762], Brazil K001101059
    Smith, L.B. [15713], Brazil K001101060
    Hatschbach, G. [28361], Brazil K001101061
    Smith, L.B. [15541], Brazil K001101062
    Smith, L.B. [13371], Brazil K001101063
    Smith, L.B. [15884], Brazil K001101064
    Smith, L.B. [15803], Brazil K001101065
    Smith, L.B. [15797], Brazil K001101066
    Reitz [2592], Brazil K001101067
    Smith, L.B. [15808], Brazil K001101068
    Longhi-Wagner, H.M. [3590], Brazil K001101069
    Pohle, R. [s.n.], Russian Federation K000808819
    Sauffer, S.M. [21011994], Brazil K001101070
    Pohle, R. [s.n.], Russian Federation K000808820
    Barbosa, E. [1000], Brazil K001101071
    Komarov, V.L. [s.n.], Kamchatka K000808821
    s.coll. [s.n.] K000808822
    Palmer, E. [231], California K000808933 Unknown type material
    Nelson, E. [430], Wyoming K000808934
    Abbe, E.C. [3876], Canada K000808935 paratype
    Simmons, H.G. [4267], Canada K000808936 Unknown type material
    Hulten, E. [7013], Alaska K000808937

    First published in Ess. Agrostogr.: 91 (1812)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014) Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF) . DESIGNPOST
    • [5] (2011) Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 110: 17-22
    • [7] (2011) Haussknechtia , Beih. 15: 1-220
    • [8] (2010) Flora of New Zealand , ed. 2, 5: 1-650. R.E.Owen, Government Printer, Wellington
    • [9] (2009) Flora of Australia 44A: 1-410. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra
    • [15] Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2007) Flora of North America North of Mexico 24: 1-908. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford
    • [17] (2006) Flora of China 22: 1-733. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis
    • [18] Clayton, W.D., Harman, K.T. & Williamson, H. (2006) World Grass Species - Synonymy database . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [19] Dávila, P., Mejia-Saulés, M.T., Gómez-Sánchez, N., Valdés-Reyna, J., Ortíz, J.J., Morín, C., Castrejón, J. & Ocampo, A. (2006) Catálogo de las Gramíneas de México . CONABIO, México city
    • [22] Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds.) (2003) Plants of Southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14. . National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
    • [24] (2001) Flora of Siberia 2: 1-362. Scientific Publishers, Inc., Enfield, Plymouth
    • [25] (2000) Flora of Bhutan 3(2): 457-883. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
    • [27] (1999) Flora of Russia. The European part and bordering regions 1: 1-546. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Broekfield
    • [32] Karthikeyan, S., Jain, S.K., Nayar, M.P. & Sanjappa, M. (1989) Florae Indicae Enumeratio: Monocotyledonae . Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta
    • [33] Troupin, G. (ed.) (1988) Flora du Rwanda 4: I-X, 1-651. Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale
    • [36] Kharkevich, S.S., Probatova, N.S. & Novikov, V.S. (1985) Sosudistye rasteniia sovetskogo Dal’nego Vostoka 1: 1-383. Izd-vo "Nauka," Leningradskoe otd-nie, Leningrad
    • [38] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1980) Flora Europaea 5: 1-452. Cambridge University Press
    • [41] (1973) Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). Botany 4: 325-411


    • [2] Forzza, R.C. & al. (2013) Lista de Espécies da Flora do Brasil . http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/2010/
    • [3] (2012) Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 84: 647-811
    • [4] (2012) Taxon 61: 889-902
    • [6] (2011) Byulleten' Glavnogo Botaniceskogo Sada 197: 80-86
    • [10] (2009) Indian Journal of Forestry 32: 657-668
    • [11] Cope, T. & Gray, A. (2009). Grasses of the British Isles. B.S.B.I. Handbook No. 13. Botanical Society of the British Isles, London.
    • [12] (2008) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 107: 1-3348
    • [13] Grubov, V.I. (2008) Key to the vascular plants of Mongolia (with an atlas) 2: 1-503. Academy of Sciences, Mongolian People's Republic, Ulaan Bator
    • [14] Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. (2008) Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1.
    • [16] Clayton, W. D., Harman, K. T. & Williamson, H. (2006 onwards). GrassBase - The Online World Grass Flora.
    • [20] Takhtajan, A.L. (ed.) (2006) Conspectus Florae Caucasi 2: 1-466. Editio Universitatis Petropolitanae
    • [21] (2005) Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 80: 45-72
    • [23] Preston, C. D., Pearman, D. A. & Dines, T. A. (eds) (2002). New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora: an Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
    • [26] Press, J.R. et al. (2000) Annotated Checklist of the Flowering Plants of Nepal . Natural History Museum, London
    • [28] Renvoize, S.A. (1998) Gramineas de Bolivia . The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [29] Lee, W.T. (1996) Lineamenta Florae Koreae . Soul T'ukpyolsi: Ak'ademi Sojok
    • [30] (1995) Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 7: 1-430. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps
    • [31] (1993) Flora of Australia 50: 1-606. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra
    • [34] Koyama, T. (1987) Grasses of Japan and its neighboring regions: an identification manual . Kodansha, Tokyo, Japan
    • [35] Davis, P.H. (ed.) (1985) Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands 9: 1-724. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh
    • [37] Davy, A. J. (1980). Biological Flora of the British Isles No. 149: Deschampsia caespitosa (L.) Beauv. ( Aira cespitosa L., Deschampsia cespitosa (L.) Beauv.) J. Ecol, 68: 1075-1096.
    • [39] Cox, R. M. & Hutchinson, T.C. (1979). Metal co-tolerances in the grass Deschampsia cespitosa. Nature 279: 231-233.
    • [40] Davy, A. J. & Taylor, K. (1974). Water characteristics of contrasting soils in the Chiltern Hills and their significance for Deschampsia caespitosa (L.) Beauv. J. Ecol, 62: 367-378.
    • [42] (1970) Flora Iranica 70: 1-573. Naturhistorisches Museums Wien
    • [43] (1970) Flora of Tropical East Africa 1: 1-176
    • [44] Hultén, E.O.G. (1960) Flora of the Aleutian Islands and westernmost Alaska Peninsula: with notes on the flora of Commander Islands , ed. 2: 1-376. Weinheim : J. Cramer ; New York : Hafner Pub. Co.
    • [45] (1957) Flora Tadzhikskoi SSR 1: 1-547. Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, Moskva
    • [46] Pavlov, N.V. (ed.) (1956) Flora Kazakhstana 1: 1-354. Alma-Ata, Izd-vo Akademii nauk Kazakhskoi SSR
    • [47] (1950) Flora Kirgizskoi SSR 2: 1-315. Frunze : Izd-vo KirgizFAN SSSR
    • [48] F.T.A. 10: 91.
    • [49] Ess. Agrost. 91: 160 (1812)
    • [50] incl. var. mannii C. E. Hubbard in Kew Bull 1935: 311
    • [51] P. Beauv., Ess. Agrost.: 91, 160 (1812).


    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    [A] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    GrassBase - The Online World Grass Flora
    [D] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
    [E] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [F] © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [H] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0