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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Orchardgrass  (Dactylis glomerata)

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Life stages of Orchardgrass flower heads collar region young plant florets mature plants

Orchardgrass, also called cock's foot, is a perennial bunch grass found throughout California to about 8200 feet (2500 m), except for deserts. It inhabits agricultural land and other disturbed places. It is cultivated for cover cropping and livestock forage. Orchardgrass is also used to stabilize soils in sites disturbed by logging, burns, and mining. It has escaped cultivation and has become a weed in certain settings. A variety of wildlife consumes orchardgrass leaves and seeds.


Pasture, woodland, orchards, crop fields, turf, roadsides and other disturbed locations.


Seedlings are light green with broad leaf blades. Second and third leaves have fringed or torn ligules at the base of the leaf, but lack auricles.


The ligule is membranous and has a rounded tip that is usually toothed or fringed. There are no auricles.

Mature plant

Mature plants grow up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. Stems are flattened and are either erect or bend abruptly at the base. Leaves are V-shaped and folded in the bud. Leaf blades are broadly linear, hairless, roughened, and approximately 1/10 to 1/4 inch of an inch (3–6 mm) wide. They have a bluish white tone.


Flowers bloom from May through August. The branched flowering head is 4 to 6 inches (10–15 cm) long with upper branches that are more erect and lower branches that are ascending to spreading. The lowermost branch separates like the spur on a cock's foot, hence one of its common names “cock’s foot”. Flowers cluster in dense groups of two to four, mostly on one side of the branch and on lower branches, nearest to the branch tip.


Reproduces by seed. Most seed germinate in the fall after maturation.

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