Festuca of North America


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

Festuca hyperborea Holmen ex Frederiksen



Bot. Not. 130: 273. 1977. Type: Greenland. Pearyland: Jorgan Brondlund Fjord, 28 July 1950, K.A. Holmen 8078. Holotype: C!

F. brachyphylla sensu Schol., Vascular Plants from Northern Svalbard, p. 24. 1934, non Schult. & Schult. f. Mantissa 2: 646. 1827.

Habit. Plants deep green (often pink or purple tinged), 2.5–10(–13.5) cm high, densely tufted (loosely caespitose), tiller bases stiffly erect, bases purplish or not purplish, horizontal rooting stems absent. Vegetative shoots arising from within existing sheaths (or below existing tillers).

Vegetative morphology. Sheaths glabrous, not conspicuous at the base of the plant (often obscured by dense tufting and recurved leaves), remaining entire, not conspicuously splitting between the veins (during the first season), closed more than half their length (prophylls and old sheaths split between the veins; prophylls scaberulous or with long trichomes on the veins). Collars glabrous. Auricles represented by distinct, erect, swellings or absent. Auricular cilia absent. Ligules 0.1–0.3 mm long, ciliate. Leaf blades 1–6 cm long, erect, stiffish. Adaxial blade surfaces with trichomes, abaxial blade surfaces glabrous or with trichomes (small and appressed in the Canadian Arctic, Aiken et al. 1994, in the data bank). Leaf blades plicate; 0.4–0.55–0.75 mm wide, 0.6–0.76–0.95 mm deep. Veins 4–7. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma poorly developed, in discrete, relatively narrow strands opposite the veins. Ribs 5. Uppermost culm leaf sheaths somewhat inflated (0.5–1.2 mm wide). Flag leaf blades 0–0.8 cm long (characteristically short and spoon-shaped). Culm nodes never exposed or becoming exposed (rarely), 1 (when visible); internodes glabrous.

Floral morphology. Inflorescence 1.1–2.2 cm long. Inflorescence branches at the lowest node 1–2, appressed after anthesis, 0.1–0.5 cm long (pedicels). Rachis rounded in cross section or angular in cross section, trichomes over the entire surface (sparse). Spikelets aggregated towards the ends of the branches; 1–2 on the longest branches; 3–6.5 mm long, 2.5–4 mm wide. Proliferating spikelets absent. Florets 3–4. Glumes unequal, glabrous, margins ciliate. First glume 1–3.5 mm long, veins 1. Second glume shorter than the first lemma, 2.2–3.2 mm long (usually broader than the first glume and conspicuously shorter than the upper glume of F. edlundiae when the two species are compared), veins 3. Rachilla internodes antrorsely scabrous. Lemma callus not elongated. Lemma 2.9–4 mm long, nerveless in dorsal view or sometimes with only the centre vein distinct, with trichomes, trichomes on the upper portion only; apex apically cleft. Lemma awn 0.7–3 mm long. Palea 3–3.5 mm long, distinctly pubescent between the keels (trichomes sparse). Lodicules with marginal teeth, glabrous, 0.7–0.9 mm long. Anthers 0.4–1.1 mm long. Ovary apex glabrous. Caryopsis 2.3–3 mm long.

Cytology. 2n = 28.

Habitat and Distribution. Native; arctic. Greenland; Canada: Franklin District (NWT), Keewatin District (NWT), Yukon (5 herbarium specimens from Quebec (DAO and CAN) that were considered to be this species, have been re-examined and annotated as F. brachyphylla subsp. brachyphylla by the first author).

Classification. Subg. Festuca L.


Although this taxon was recognized as distinct by Holmen (1952) for specimens collected in Greenland, Porsild (1964) did not recognize it as occurring on the Arctic Islands. Frederiksen (1977) formally published a species description that also included characteristics of the species now recognized as F. edlundiae S. Aiken, Consaul, & Lefkovitch (Aiken et al. 1995).


• Close up of plant growing on Cornwallis Island. Close up of F. hyperborea plant growing on Cornwallis Island, VIP Hill near Resolute Bay. Photograph by Hugh Gibbins, 1994. • Contrast of F. edlundiae and F. hyperborea. A plant of F. edlundiae (left) and F. hyperborea (right) growing side by side at Resolute, Cornwallis Island. • Leaf anatomy. Leaf cross section of F. hyperborea. Leaf blades are 0.4–0.55–0.75 mm wide and 0.6–0.76–0.95 mm deep, with 4–7 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 ribs. • Holotype specimen: C. Type specimen of F. hyperborea collected in Greenland at Kedelkrogselv 8210'N, 3100'W alt. 60 m. 2n=28. Annotated as the Holotype by Signe Frederiksen, 1979 Type: Greenland. Pearyland: Jorgan Brondlund Fjord, 28 July 1950, K. Holmen 8078. Holotype: C. • Herbarium specimen: CAN. Controversial herbarium specimen of F. brevissima collected as F. brachyphylla and in question of being F. hyperborea. A duplicate of this collection, which was sent to LE, was annotated as F. hyperborea by T.V. Petrovsky in 1974. This lead to the suggestion that F. hyperborea occurs in Western Canada, as mapped in Aiken and Darbyshire (1990). The duplicate at LE was annotated as F. brevissima by E. B. Alexeev in Feb. 1981. Canada, Yukon, Ogilvie Mountains, Mountain east of mile 57–58, in open gravel patches at top of mountain, 31 July 1966, R.T. Porsild 395. • 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).