NC State Extension Publications


Tall fescue is the most widely grown cool-season species in North Carolina. For a cool-season species, tall fescue is tolerant to heat and drought, disease resistant, and persists with minimum care. It has a tendency to clump due to its bunch-type growth habit and may need to be re-seeded each year in areas that exhibit thin growth patterns due to excessive summer stresses. Tall fescue is easily confused with Kentucky bluegrass, annual ryegrass, and perennial ryegrass. However, Kentucky bluegrass has a boat-shaped leaf tip and distinctive light-colored lines on both sides of the midrib. Tall fescue has rolled vernation in the leaf bud and perennial ryegrass has folded vernation. Also, tall fescue has rough leaf blade margins whereas annual and perennial ryegrass have smooth ones. Tall fescue and perennial ryegrass both have non-clasping auricles, whereas annual ryegrass has clasping auricles. The backside of the tall fescue leaf blade is less glossy than that of annual ryegrass.

Lawn and Athletic Field Maintenance

Tall Fescue as a Weed

Cultural Control

Most turfgrasses are difficult to control within another turfgrass. Therefore, turf managers should select clean seed or vegetative sources for establishment, use an adapted turfgrass species and cultivar for their location, and use proper mowing and fertilization techniques to maintain a dense, actively growing, desired turf. Digging or removal with hand or mechanical equipment, for example a sod cutter, is one way to control undesired perennial turfgrasses. You may spot treat an infested area with an appropriate non-selective herbicide, realizing it will also kill the desired turfgrass.

Chemical Control

Herbicide and Formulation Amount of Formulation per 1,000 sq ft Amount of Formulation per Acre Pounds Active Ingredient per Acre
Postemergence Control
flazasulfuron, MOA 2 (25 DG) (Katana) 0.011 to 0.069 oz 0.5 to 3 oz 0.0078 to 0.0469
Precaution and Remarks: For use on well established bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and seashore paspalum grown turf including golf courses (including fairways, roughs, greens (bermudagrass and seashore paspalum only), tees, collars and approaches), industrial parks, tank-sod- and seed farms, cemeteries, athletic field and commercial lawns. Residential turf applications are limited to spot applications. Apply a maximum of 1.5 ounces per acre on fully green centipedegrass and seashore paspalum. 3 ounces per acre needed for annual bluegrass control and best if applied in spring. 0.5 to 1.5 ounces per acre will control perennial and Italian ryegrass. For clumpy ryegrass, use 1.5 to 3 ounces per acre. 1.5 ounces per acre needed for tall fescue control. 2.25 to 3 ounces per acre needed for poa trivialis control. Include a nonionic surfactant at 0.25% by volume.​
foramsulfuron, MOA 2 (0.19 SC) (Revolver) 0.2 to 0.6 fl oz 8.8 to 26.2 fl oz 0.013 to 0.039
Precaution and Remarks: For use on bermudagrass and zoysiagrass grown on home lawns, golf courses and sod farms. Do not use on warm season turfgrass collars surrounding bentgrass greens. May be applied up to 1 week prior to overseeding. Do not apply within 2 weeks of bermudagrass sprigging. Apply in 25 to 60 gallons water per acre. Rainfast after 2 hours. Surfactant not required.​
rimsulfuron, MOA 2 (25 DF) (various brands) 0.011 to 0.092 oz 0.5 to 4 oz 0.0078 to 0.0625
Precaution and Remarks: May be applied to bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and centipedegrass on professionally managed sports facilities at professional and collegiate levels, golf courses, sod farms, roadsides, industrial and commercial lawns. For annual bluegrass control, apply November through December and again February through March if needed at 2 ounces per acre. May be applied 10 to 14 days prior to overseeding. For overseeded removal, apply 2 ounces per acre 3 to 4 weeks before desired removal date, and repeat 3 weeks later if needed. For weed control along roadsides, apply 4 ounces per acre if single application only. A nonionic surfactant at 0.25% by volume or an oil adjuvant such as crop oil concentrate and modified seed oil at 1% by volume are required. Do not apply to cool-season turfgrasses, residential lawns or newly sprigged/sodded bermudagrass.​
[metsulfuron + rimsulfuron], MOA 2 + 2 (37 WG) (Negate) 0.0344352 oz 1.5 oz 0.0346875
Precaution and Remarks: Use on well established bermudagrass and zoysiagrass grown on nonresidential turf including golf courses, sod farms, industrial and commercial lawns, and professionally managed college and professional sports fields. Overseeding can occur 2 months after application. Include a nonionic surfactant at 0.25% by volume.​
sulfosulfuron, MOA 2 (75 DG) (various brands) 0.017 to 0.046 oz 0.75 to 2 oz 0.035 to 0.09375
Precaution and Remarks: May be applied to certain ornamental native grasses and also bermudagrass species, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and kikuyugrass grown on sod farms, golf courses (excluding greens), commercial and residential turf that is highly managed, and other noncrop areas. Use 1.5 to 2 ounces per acre for fall annual bluegrass control 7 to 10 days before overseeding. Use 0.75 to 1.25 ounces per acre for fall or winter control in nonoverseeded bermudagrass, and reapply if needed but not before 21 days after initial application. For tall fescue control, two applications may be required at 4- to 10-week intervals. Perennial ryegrass control not as complete as with foramsulfuron, rimsulfuron, or trifloxysulfuron. Use a nonionic surfactant at 0.25% by volume. Do not exceed 2.66 ounces per acre per year.​
trifloxysulfuron, MOA 2 (75 WG) (Monument) 0.0023 to 0.0129 oz 0.1 to 0.56 oz 0.0047 to 0.0263
Precaution and Remarks: May be applied to residential bermudagrass and zoysiagrass and also on golf courses, sod farms, and other nonresidential turf areas. A nonionic surfactant at 0.25 to 0.5% by volume is recommended. Temporary discoloration may occur if used with MSO or COC. May be applied 3 weeks prior to overseeding. Use rates of 0.1 to 0.3 ounces per acre to remove overseeded perennial ryegrass and Poa trivialis to aid bermudagrass spring transition. Labeled turf species can be seeded or sprigged into treated areas 4 weeks after application. ​
[thiencarbazone-methyl + foramsulfuron + halosulfuron], MOA 14 + 2 + 2 (60.5 WG) (Tribute Total) 0.0735 oz 3.2 oz 0.121
Precaution and Remarks: Apply to well-established residential and commercial bermudagrass and zoysiagrass (Emerald, Meyer, Zeon) lawns, golf courses (excluding greens), athletic fields, sod farms, roadsides, parks, cemeteries and recreational areas. Do not exceed 3.2 ounces per acre per application or 6.4 ounces per acre yearly. Use 0.25 to 0.5% by volume nonionic surfactant or 0.5 to 1% by volume methylated seed oil. After application, wait 12 weeks to overseed ryegrass or bermudagrass. Wait 1 month after bermudagrass seedling emergence and 2 weeks after sprigging or sodding bermudagrass before treating. Temporary stunting and yellowing may last up to 2 weeks but turf will recover. Crabgrass and goosegrass are controlled up to 2 tiller stage.​

Species Data

    • membranous; collar-like, 0.02 inches (0.5 mm) or less long, very jagged
      Figure 4
    • cool season turf or perennial weed
    • sharp-pointed; deeply ridged above, glossy below, prominent midrib below, edges rough
      Figure 7
    • absent
    • occasional and short
    • divided; may be hairy on edges
      Figure 8
Tall fescue seedhead

Figure 1. Tall fescue seedhead.

Tall fescue vernation

Figure 2. Tall fescue vernation.

Tall fescue vernation

Figure 3. Tall fescue vernation.

Tall fescue ligule

Figure 4. Tall fescue ligule.

Tall fescue auricle

Figure 5. Tall fescue auricle.

Tall fescue auricle

Figure 6. Tall fescue auricle.

Tall fescue leaf blade tip

Figure 7. Tall fescue leaf blade tip.

Tall fescue collar type

Figure 8. Tall fescue collar type.

Tall fescue sheath margin

Figure 9. Tall fescue sheath margin.

Tall fescue sheath type

Figure 10. Tall fescue sheath type.


Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist
Crop and Soil Sciences

Publication date: Nov. 7, 2017

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