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Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hair-grass)

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

Deschampsia cespitosa (Photo: Rasbak licensed under CC BY 3.0)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Deschampsia cespitosa (L.) P.Beauv.

Common name: 

tufted hair-grass

Conservation status: 

Widespread and abundant; not of conservation concern.


Rough grassland, marshes, water-meadows, woodland and moorland. Also occurs on riverbanks, fens and artificial habitats such as spoil heaps.

Key Uses: 

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

Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Deschampsia

About this species

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.



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