Story: Pastures

Page 5. Other grasses

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Timothy (Phleum pratense) grows only on moist, heavy soils in the cooler southern regions of the South Island. It is highly palatable to stock but is uncompetitive with other plants, so needs light grazing. However, it grows well with clover.

Timothy starts growing later in spring than ryegrass and lacks drought tolerance. It is an excellent stock feed, even when seed heads emerge. It has been shown to give high milk yields in dairy cows, and makes good hay.


Phalaris (Phalaris aquatica) is a hardy, blue-green perennial, which grows best on drier soils and in autumn and winter. It withstands hard grazing and treading once established, and is very resistant to pests.

It contains an alkaloid that can cause the nervous disorder phalaris staggers in grazing stock, especially on cobalt-deficient soils when little other feed is available. Because of this, phalaris should be sown with other dryland grasses.

Yorkshire fog

Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus) commonly grows wild in wet conditions and thrives on infertile and acidic soils with high aluminium levels. Generally considered a weed, it produces a rank, hairy-leafed, unpalatable pasture and soon dominates other species unless kept closely grazed.


Browntop (Agrostis species) is regarded as a weed grass, because of its low quality. However, because it persists in low-fertility soil, it dominates unimproved hill and upland pastures, or poorly managed lowland pastures. Its quality can be improved with nitrogen fertiliser. Its fine, dull leaves densely cover the ground and tend to smother clover growth. It is one of the main grasses used in lawns.

Native grasses

The most prominent native grasses in New Zealand are tussock grasses, which abound in high-country landscapes. They shelter exotic grasses and legumes, which supply feed for livestock.

Other native grasses are scarce in well-grazed pastures, but can be seen in natural grassy areas and in some less fertile hill-country pastures.

How to cite this page:

Deric Charlton, 'Pastures - Other grasses', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 July 2024)

Story by Deric Charlton, published 24 Nov 2008