Potomac Orchard Grass is a bunch-type, tall-growing, cool-season perennial grass. It is one of the most productive cool-season grasses, tolerant to shade, fairly drought resistant with moderate winter hardiness. Orchardgrass does not exhibit as much tolerance to drought or winter hardiness as tall fescue and bromegrass. It has been reported growing in the United States since before 1760.
Wildlife: Elk and deer find orchardgrass highly palatable and will utilize it most of the year. Orchardgrass is sometimes used in grass-legume mixes for nesting, brood rearing, escape, and winter cover in upland wildlife and conservation plantings. However, upland birds and waterfowl often prefer taller grasses that develop sparser stands such as basin wildrye and tall wheatgrass. In areas disturbed by fire where orchardgrass has been seeded in a mixture with other grasses and forbs, wildlife use increases (Sullivan, 1992). The caterpillars of the Many- Lined Wainscot moth (Leucania multilinea) and the Little Wood Satyr butterfly (Megisto cymela) feed on the foliage of the grass and seeds are eaten sparingly by some songbirds including the horned lark and chipping sparrow (Illinois Wildflowers, 2012).
Manure and biosolids application: Orchardgrass can use high rates of Nitrogen (N) when grown on deep soils with adequate water supplies, making it valuable in nutrient recycling systems. It can be used in manure and biosolid applications to recycle large amounts of N (in excess of 300 pounds N/ac/yr) while simultaneously producing high quality forage (Sullivan, 1992).
This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed
Common Alternate Names: Cocksfoot
Grazing/Hayland: The primary use of orchardgrass is for pasture and hay forage production (Ogle, et al., 2011a). It is highly palatable to all classes of livestock. It is one of the best forage grasses for use in the Northern states under intensive rotational grazing systems. It is compatible with many legumes (alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, and various clovers) and with some grasses such as perennial ryegrass and tall fescue (Sullivan, 1992). The life cycles of orchardgrass and alfalfa match well.
Scientific name: Dactylis glomerata