Festuca of North America


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

Festuca californica Vasey



Contrib. U.S. Natl. Herb. 1: 277. 1893. Type: U.S.A. California, collected on the hills around Oakland, 1862, H.N. Bolander 1505. Holotype: US! Isotype: GH!

Bromus kalmii var. aristulatus Torrey, U.S. Expl. Miss. Pacif. Rpt. 4: 157. 1856. Festuca aristulata (Torrey) Shear ex Piper, Contrib. U.S. Natl. Herb. 10: 32. 1906. F. altaica var. aristulata (Torrey) St.-Yves, Candollea 2: 273. 1925. Type: U.S.A. California: Mark West Creek, 1856, Bigelow s.n.

Festuca hitchcockiana E. B. Alexeev, Byull. Mosk. O-va Ispyt. Prir. Otd. Biol. 87: 111. 1982. Type: U.S.A. California: Santa Clara Co., 6 May 1921, A. H. Wolley-Dod 207. Holotype: K.

Habit. Plants bluish gray green, 60–120 cm high, densely tufted, tiller bases stiffly erect, bases purplish, horizontal rooting stems absent. Vegetative shoots arising from within existing sheaths.

Vegetative morphology. Sheaths glabrous or with trichomes (scabrous or scaberulous; sometimes with long trichomes on the margins near the collars; sometimes densely hairy), conspicuous at the base of the plant, persisting for more than 1 year, remaining entire, not conspicuously splitting between the veins, open more than half their length. Collars villous (usually or less commonly, almost glabrous). Auricles represented by distinct, erect, swellings. Auricular cilia absent (tufts of hairs from the collars may occur on erect auricle swellings). Ligules 0.8–1.5 mm long, ciliate. Leaf blades 8–40(–60) cm long, erect, stiffish. Adaxial blade surfaces with trichomes, abaxial blade surfaces glabrous. Leaf blades flat or plicate (usually), 1.8–3.5 mm wide; 0.6–1.2–1.8 mm wide, 0.95–1.31–1.7 mm deep. Veins 7–15 (prominent). Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands present. Abaxial sclerenchyma well developed, in broad bands or continuous. Ribs 7–14. Uppermost culm leaf sheaths not inflated. Flag leaf blades 5–32 cm long. Culm nodes becoming exposed, 2 (Piper 1906); internodes glabrous.

Floral morphology. Inflorescence 14–30 cm long. Inflorescence branches at the lowest node 1 or 2, spreading (with few large spikelets towards the ends of the branches), 5–12 cm long. Rachis angular in cross section, trichomes mainly on the ridges. Spikelets loosely scattered in an open panicle with slender branches; 4–8 on the longest branches; 13–18 mm long, (2.5–)4.5–8 mm wide. Proliferating spikelets absent (not recorded for this taxon). Florets 4–6. Glumes unequal, glabrous (or slightly scabrous on keel), margins ciliate. First glume 4.7–6.7 mm long, veins 1. Second glume shorter than the first lemma, (5–)6–8 mm long, veins 3. Rachilla internodes antrorsely scabrous. Lemma callus not elongated. Lemma 7.5–10.6 mm long, nerveless in dorsal view or sometimes with only the centre vein distinct, with trichomes (more or less scaberulous), trichomes over the entire surface; apex entire. Lemma awn 1.5–2.2 mm long. Palea 7.2–10.7 mm long, distinctly pubescent between the keels. Lodicules with marginal teeth, ciliate, 1.2–1.6 mm long. Anthers 4.5–5 mm long. Ovary apex pubescent. Caryopsis 4.5–5.5 mm long.

Cytology. 2n = 28.

Habitat and Distribution. Native; rangeland, prairie, dry habitats. Northwestern USA: Oreg.; Southwestern USA: Calif.

Classification. Subg. Leucopoa (Griseb.) Hack. (subg. Hesperochloa, sect. Breviaristatae Krivot, Alexeev (1980)).


F. hitchcockiana E. B. Alexeev was distinguished from F. californica by the characters, ligule length (longer in F. hitchcockiana), and the absence of collar hairs (F. hitchcockiana). Collar hairs vary in abundance from dense to almost absent, even on the same plants. Only one specimen with conspicuously long ligules (1–4 mm) was found, by S. Aiken, in the course of the study of Festuca for the treatment of the genus in The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California (Aiken 1993). In that treatment, Aiken considered as synonymous F. californica and F. californica var. parishii (Piper) Hitchc. Having gathered data from the type specimen of var. parishii (illustrated in the image library) and analysed it using INTKEY options with this database, the taxon appears to be a distinct species (Aiken et al. 1997). The taxon is part of an ongoing study.


• Plant habit. Left, Festuca californica plants. Right, close up of spikelets of the plants. Photographed in Oregon, Jackson County, at Buckle County Park, 20 June, 1994, by Barbara Wilson. • Plant habit. Left, Festuca californica plants with sparse inflorescences. Right, close up of inflorescence branches which are separated by an angle of approximately 90 at the lowest inflorescence node. The inflorescence branches of F. altaica and F. subverticillata, that are borne much the same way, are illustrated with those species. Photographed in Oregon, Jackson County, at Buckle County Park, 20 June, 1994, by Barbara Wilson. • Line drawing. Illustration from Piper (1906) as F. aristulata (Torrey) Shear. • Leaf anatomy. Leaf cross section of F. californica. Leaf blades are 0.6–1.2–1.8 mm wide and 0.95–1.31–1.7 mm deep, with 7–15 veins, prominent. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands are present. Abaxial sclerenchyma strands are well developed, in broad bands or continuous. There are 7–14 ribs. • Habitat. Plants of F. californica growing in California, Napa Valley, Spanish Flat, 1 mile south of lower Charles Valley Road. A common plant in the chaparral. S.G. Aiken 88–439. • Holotype specimen: US. Holotype specimen of F. californica Vasey. Photocopy of specimen. The label has scabrella crossed out. Coll. H.N. Bolander 1505. Torr. Oakland Hills, 1862. The specimen was annotated by E.B. Alexeev in June, 1979. • Isotype specimen: GH. Isotype specimen of F. californica. The labels read, "California. Coll. H.N. Bolander 186. Fest. scabrella Torr. Oakland (unreadable) =1505 of Cat. St.Yves source local and collect. F. californica Vasey C.V.P. (Piper), Isotype, 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).