Festuca of North America


S. G. Aiken, M. J. Dallwitz, C. L. McJannet, and L. L. Consaul

Festuca baffinensis Polunin



Bull. Natl. Mus. Canada 92 (Biol. Ser. 24): 91. pl. 3. 1940. Type: Canada. N.W.T.: Baffin Island, Pond Inlet, 12 Sept. 1934, N. Polunin 706. Lectotype: BM! (Pavlick 1984). Paratypes and topotypes: Polunin 705. GH! CAN!

F. brevifolia var. arctica St.-Yves subvar. pubiculmis St.-Yves, Candollea 2: 253. 1925.

Habit. Plants deep green, 5–20(–27) cm high, densely tufted, tiller bases stiffly erect, bases purplish or not purplish, horizontal rooting stems absent. Vegetative shoots arising from within existing sheaths.

Vegetative morphology. Sheaths glabrous, not conspicuous at the base of the plant, remaining entire, not conspicuously splitting between the veins (in the first year), closed more than half their length ("Sheaths fused half or more" Frederiksen, 1982. Among the sheaths are prophylls 1–2 cm long, that have retrorse, glabrescent trichomes on the veins and surface). Collars glabrous. Auricles represented by distinct, erect, swellings. Auricular cilia absent. Ligules 0.1–0.3 mm long, ciliate. Leaf blades (1.5–)3–9(–17) cm long, erect, stiffish. Adaxial blade surfaces with trichomes, abaxial blade surfaces glabrous (or glabrescent). Leaf blades plicate; 0.25–0.52–0.8 mm wide, 0.55–0.75–1.15 mm deep. Veins 3–7. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma poorly developed, in discrete, relatively narrow strands opposite the veins. Ribs 5 (usually well defined). Uppermost culm leaf sheaths somewhat inflated (0.7–1.9 mm wide, when the inflorescence is in the boot). Flag leaf blades 0.5–3.7 cm long. Culm nodes becoming exposed or never exposed, 1 (when visible); internodes densely pubescent (with retrorse hairs on the culm at the base of the inflorescence).

Floral morphology. Inflorescence 1.5–3(–4) cm long. Inflorescence branches at the lowest node 1–2, appressed after anthesis, 0.3–1.5 cm long (panicle described by Polunin (1940) as broadly ovate and very dense, but on plants 20–30 cm tall the panicle is often elongated and narrow). Rachis angular in cross section, trichomes over the entire surface. Spikelets aggregated towards the ends of the branches (often densely clustered into an ovoid panicle); 1–4 on the longest branches; 4.5–8.5 mm long, 1.5–2.5 mm wide. Proliferating spikelets absent. Florets 2–5(–6). Glumes unequal, with trichomes, vestiture at the apex only, margins ciliate. First glume 2.2–3.7 mm long, veins 1. Second glume shorter than the first lemma, 3–5 mm long, veins 3. Rachilla internodes antrorsely scabrous (scaberulous). Lemma callus not elongated. Lemma 3.5–5.6 mm long, nerveless in dorsal view or sometimes with only the centre vein distinct, with trichomes, trichomes on the upper portion only; apex entire. Lemma awn 0.8–2.5(–3.3) mm long. Palea 3.5–6 mm long, distinctly pubescent between the keels. Lodicules with marginal teeth, glabrous or ciliate, 0.7–0.9 mm long. Anthers (0.3–)0.5–1.1 mm long. Ovary apex pubescent. Caryopsis 2–2.5 mm long.

Cytology. 2n = 28.

Habitat and Distribution. Native; arctic and alpine (circumpolar). Greenland; Canada: Que., Alta., B.C., Franklin District (NWT), Keewatin District (NWT), Mackenzie District (NWT), Yukon; Northwestern USA: Alaska; Rocky Mountains USA: Colo., Idaho, Mont., Wyo.

Classification. Subg. Festuca L.


When Polunin (1940) described F. baffinensis as a new species he indicated that his collection 706 was the type and that he had two cotypes. He published that he had deposited the type in the Gray Herbarium (GH) and the cotypes at the National Herbarium of Canada (CAN) and the British Museum (BM). A collection, Polunin 706, at the BM (photograph by L. L. Consaul, October 1994, in the image library) was chosen as a lectotype by Pavlick (1984). It is a mixed collection with plants of both F. baffinensis and F. brachyphylla Schult. & Schult. f. indicated by Pavlick's annotation on the sheet. Collections of Polunin 705 from the same locality on the same date have been located at the Gray and CAN (photograph of the GH specimen, in the image library). As the collection 706 is the more complete and aesthetically pleasing specimen, we suggest that it was chosen as the holotype and that a mistake occurred in depositing the cotypes. No specimen of Polunin 706 at CAN, has been found.

McNeill and Dore (1976) suggested that F. baffinensis may be a subspecies of F. brachyphylla. In the musters formed by the Lefkovitch (1993) analyses, F. baffinensis grouped with F. minutiflora Rydb.; F. brachyphylla was in a separate group. In isozyme and morphological studies of four Arctic species (Aiken et al. 1993, 1995) reported consistent differences in F. baffinensis. A study of phenotypic plasticity in the same species (Ramesar-Fortner et al. 1995) documented differences in the growth response of F. baffinensis and F. brachyphylla under controlled growth conditions. These findings are further substantiated in Aiken et al. (1997).

This species occurs in the United States, as documented by Frederiksen (1979). She noted it had been reported from Colorado by Weber (1961) but that it was rare with a scattered distribution through most of the Rocky Mountains and seems identical with F. baffinensis from the Arctic. In the course of mapping the North American distribution of the species, many records of collections in the United States have been found.


• Plant habit. Festuca baffinensis plants approximately 10 cm tall with blue green leaves and dark purple inflorescences growing among Astragalus alpinus plants on Melville Island. • Plant habit. Festuca baffinensis plants approximately 15 cm tall, collected from a well watered slope on Ellesmere Island, N.W.T. As plants of this species become taller, the inflorescences become narrower, and the overall appearance of the plants approaches that of F. brachyphylla plants of the same height. • Plant habitat. Grasses with the purple-brown inflorescences are F. baffinensis. • Habitat at Polar Bear Pass, N.W.T.. Habitat at Polar Bear Pass at the High Arctic Research Station on Bathurst Island, N.W.T. The dominant darker plants, at the base of the ladder to the observation tower (upper white box), are F. baffinensis, the other paler F. plants, closer to the knapsack (lower white box), are F. edlundiae in the type locality for this species. • Leaf anatomy. Leaf cross section of F. baffinensis. Plicate leaf blades are 0.25–0.52–0.8 mm wide and 0.55–0.75–1.15 mm deep, with 3–7 veins. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands are absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma strands are poorly developed, in discrete, relatively narrow strands opposite the veins. There are 5, usually well defined, ribs. • Lectotype specimen: BM. Lectotype specimen of F. baffinensis (Pavlick 1984). Canada, N.W.T., Baffin Island, Pond Inlet, Nicholas Polunin 706. BM. • Paratype and topotype specimen: GH. Paratype, topotype specimen of F. baffinensis. Canada, N.W.T., Baffin Island, Pond Inlet, Nicholas Polunin 705. GH. • Distribution map

The interactive key provides access to the character list, illustrations, full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting specified attributes, and summaries of attributes within groups of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., McJannet, C.L. and Consaul, L.L. 1996 onwards. Festuca of North America: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Version: 19th October 2005. http://delta-intkey.com’. Aiken, Dallwitz, McJannet, and Consaul (1997) should also be cited (see References).