Festuca of North America


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

Festuca ovina L.



Sp. Pl.: 73. 1753. Type: "Habitat in Europae collibus apricis aridis vulgatissimum".

For synonymy see Tzvelev (1976) and Markgraf-Dannenberg (1980).

Habit. Plants yellowish green or bluish gray green, (10–)20–45(–75) cm high, densely tufted, tiller bases stiffly erect, bases not purplish (usually straw coloured), horizontal rooting stems absent. Vegetative shoots arising from within existing sheaths.

Vegetative morphology. Sheaths glabrous or with trichomes (that are scabrous), 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 (usually to the base). Collars glabrous. Auricles represented by distinct, erect, swellings or absent. Ligules 0.2–0.3 mm long, ciliate. Leaf blades 10–30 cm long, erect, stiffish. Adaxial blade surfaces with trichomes (often dense), abaxial blade surfaces with trichomes (that are minutely scabrous). Leaf blades plicate; 0.6–0.75 mm wide, 0.8–1.2 mm deep. Veins 5–7. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma well developed, in broad bands or continuous (as a complete, relatively uniform ring, c.f. F. filiformis). Ribs 1 (well developed, 2–3 poorly developed). Uppermost culm leaf sheaths not inflated. Flag leaf blades 3–6 cm long. Culm nodes becoming exposed, 1; internodes scabrous-hirsute (or almost glabrous).

Floral morphology. Inflorescence 2–12 cm long (loosely compacted). Inflorescence branches at the lowest node 1, appressed after anthesis, 1–3 cm long. Rachis angular in cross section, trichomes mainly on the ridges (very scabrid). Spikelets evenly distributed along the branches; 1–5 on the longest branches; (4–)4.8–6.3(–7.3) mm long, 2–3 mm wide. Proliferating spikelets absent (usually, but recorded in European specimens). Florets 3–8 (green, glaucous, or purple tinged). First glumes present. Glumes unequal, with trichomes, vestiture at the apex only (and on the main vein), margins ciliate. First glume 2.5–3 mm long, veins 1. Second glume shorter than the first lemma, (2.2–)2.6–4.6 mm long (0.8–1.3 mm wide), veins 3. Rachilla internodes 0.5–1.2 mm long, antrorsely scabrous. Lemma callus not elongated. Lemma (2.6–)3.5–4.5(–5.1) mm long (1.4–1.7(-2) mm wide, lanceolate to oblanceolate), nerveless in dorsal view or sometimes with only the centre vein distinct, glabrous or with trichomes (sparse), trichomes on the upper portion only (and on the main vein if applicable); apex entire. Lemma awn present. Lemma awn 1–1.7 mm long. Palea (2.5–)3.4–4.8(–5.3) mm long, distinctly pubescent between the keels. Lodicules with marginal teeth, ciliate, 0.9–1.3 mm long. Anthers 2–2.8 mm long. Ovary apex glabrous. Caryopsis 2–3 mm long (?).

Cytology. 2n = 14.

Habitat and Distribution. Introduced; grown experimentally, but not extensively; alpine (sometimes planted on ski slopes, grown in the Rogue Valley, Oregon), or rangeland, prairie, dry habitats.

Classification. Subg. Festuca L.


This European introduction has apparently been grown to a limited extent at Agricultural Experimental Stations, particularly in the U.S.A., and seeded at ski areas. It is reported that seed of F. ovina was ordered by Rocky Mountain National Park personnel from a Turkish source (or perhaps seeds of a cultivar from there), to revegetate the degraded roadside along Trail Ridge in the park (W.A. Weber 1995, personal communication).

Alexeev (1982) having indicated that the species was not considered to occur in North America, discusses a single specimen collected in Illinois (Pialt Co., Allerton Park near Monticells, 31 May 1959, G.N. Jones 24309, LE). The first author has found the following additional records of introduced F. ovina: California, Sonoma Co., cultivated in a Nursery in Freestone, 4 July 1964, Elizabeth McClintock, DAV 446040; California, Santa Barbara Co. Parking lawn of Santa Barbara Street, 22 May 1956, Henry M. Polland, DAV 412342; California, Alpine Co. Mt. Reba ski area, northwest of Lake Alpine, approximately 7800 ft. Disturbed roadside, perhaps seeded 2 August 1977, J.T. Howell 52509, DAV 621476; California, Sierra Co., Yuba Summit, meadow, 18 June 1981, Catherine Best, DAV 734387, 734391; California, Yolo Co., Agronomy Experimental Areas, Davis Campus, ornamental planting, 29 May 1961, B. Crampton BC-76 DAV (Agronomy) 27947; Illinois, Lisle, Morton Arboretum, 5 June 1967, T.R. Dudley, N.A. 18712, UTC 158833; South Carolina, Anderson Co., Anderson, May 1924, Rev. J. Davis, (Dudley) DAV 203972; Utah, Uintah Mts., Dyer Mine, dead timber, 9 July 1902, L.N. Goodding 1207, MO 2968069; Washington, Pierce Co., Mt. Rainier National Park, Mt. Fremont, trail, 9 Aug. 1955, P.H. Raven 8535, CAS 409977; Washington, Okanagan Co., Okanagan National Forest, 1.5 mi S of Sweetgrass Lookout on Sweetgrass Ridge near Winthrop, 5700 ft. elevation. 48°29'N; 120°11'W, 20 July 1961, J.G. Smith 186. This population had persisted for 8 years. (Barbara Wilson personal communication 1996). Barbara Wilson has provided the following records from the Pringle herbarium (VT): Vermont, Addison Co., Button Island, Ferrisburg, 26 June 1981, P.F. Zika 3773; Vermont, Bennington Co., Mount Equinox, elev. 1700 ft., 3 July 1981, P.F. Zika 3814; Vermont, Chittenden Co., Jonesville, Richmond, railroad tracks, 16 June 1981, P.F. Zika 3612; Vermont, Charlotte Co., old fields, 11 June 1877, C.G. Pringle s.n.

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).