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Velvet Grass (Holcus lanatus)

Grass Family (Poaceae)

Holcus lanatus (velvet grass).  Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org


Holcus lanatus (velvet grass).  Photo courtesy of Robert Klips, bobklips.com
Photo: Robert Klips, bobklips.com

Description/Habitat:  Velvet grass (Holcus lanatus) is a tufted gray-green perennial grass with fibrous roots that is native to Europe. It can grow between 3-6 feet tall (1-2 meters) annually. It is particularly invasive in the coastal grasslands, and wetland areas, as well as any disturbed area that receives some moisture. Velvet grass can tolerate drought once established, but can be killed by an extended period of frost.
Leaves:  The soft, densely hairy, and velvety leaves of the velvet grassare flat and generally 2-7 inches (5-18 cm) long, and .1-.4 inches (.3-1 cm) wide. While in the bud stage the leaves are rolled.
Flowers:  The flowers of velvet grassare comprised of pale purple or pink flower spikelets. The grass is also distinguishable by the purplish coloration on the panicles and veins of the sheath.
Seeds:  While flowering, the branches spread and make the whole head quite open with the seeds maturing to a straw color, but eventually the branches contract back against the main stem. Velvet grassproduces an average number of 177,000 to 240,000 seeds.
Flowering Period:  The purple tinged inflorescence bloom from May to August. The seeds are shed from June to early fall.
Management:  On Fort Ord National Monument the main method of controlling velvet grass has been manual removal. Doing this one time will not guarantee control of the plant since there is still a seed bank, but manual treatments will substantially reduce the plant’s abundance in an area.
Another effective method utilized is to cut the off the flowering heads of the velvet grass, and then spray the grass with 1.5% glyphosate herbicide solution. This method is used on Fort Ord Army rangelands, where manual techniques cannot be used. If the velvet grass is spotted before it has started flowering, it can be sprayed.
One technique that has been successful in areas with large infestations, but has not been used at Fort Ord National Monument, is mowing. This should start in late March before the seed sets, and then repeated monthly until the end of July. After mowing smaller infestation patches, they should be mulched with 4-6 inches of rice straw, and then manually remove the resprouts as they emerge.

Harrington, Kerry. 2000. Phalaris aquatica. Pp. 262-266 in Bossard, C. C., J.M. Randall, and M. C. Hoshovsky. Invasive Plants of California's Wildlands. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA.

Holloran, Pete, Anouk Mackenzie, Sharon Farrell, and Doug Johnson. "Purple Velvet Grass." The Weed Workers' Handbook: A Guide to Techniques for Removing Bay Area Invasive Plants. Richmond, CA: Watershed Project, 2004. 100-01. Print.
Allergy Advisor. "Velvet Grass / Yorkshire Fog." All Allergy. Zing Solutions, 1998. Web. 04 June 2012. <http://www.allallergy.net/fapaidfind.cfm?cdeoc=1600>.
Pitcher, Don, and Mary J. Russo. "Holcus Lanatus." Bugwoodwiki. The Nature Conservancy, 16 May 2012. Web. 04 June 2012. <http://wiki.bugwood.org/Holcus_lanatus>.

Last updated: 08-20-2012