Festuca of North America


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

Festuca rubra L. s.l.



Sp. Pl.: 74. 1753. Type: Europe: in sterilibus siccis.

For extensive lists of synonymy see Hultén (1942), Hitchcock and Chase (1951), Tzvelev (1976), Alexeev (1985), Pavlick (1985).

Habit. Plants yellowish green or bluish gray green or deep green, 8–120 cm high, densely tufted or not densely tufted, tiller bases stiffly erect or not stiffly erect, bases purplish or not purplish, horizontal rooting stems present or absent. Vegetative shoots arising from within existing sheaths, or arising outside, or breaking through the base of existing sheaths.

Vegetative morphology. Sheaths glabrous or glabrescent or with trichomes (often retrose), not conspicuous at the base of the plant, splitting between the veins or remaining entire, not conspicuously splitting between the veins, closed more than half their length. Collars glabrous. Auricles represented by distinct, erect, swellings or absent. Auricular cilia absent. Ligules 0.1–0.5 mm long, ciliate. Leaf blades 3–37 cm long, erect, stiffish or more or less lax. Adaxial blade surfaces glabrous or with trichomes, abaxial blade surfaces glabrous or with trichomes. Leaf blades flat or plicate, 1–4 mm wide (flat leaves); 0.3–1.4 mm wide, 0.5–2 mm deep (plicate leaves). Veins 5–12. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma poorly developed or well developed, in discrete, relatively narrow strands opposite the veins. Ribs 5–9 (well developed and pointed). Uppermost culm leaf sheaths not inflated. Flag leaf blades 0.4–11 cm long. Culm nodes never exposed or becoming exposed (if applicable), 1–3; internodes glabrous, or scabrous-hirsute.

Floral morphology. Inflorescence 2–20 cm long. Inflorescence branches at the lowest node 1–4, appressed after anthesis or spreading, 0–8 cm long. Rachis angular in cross section, trichomes mainly on the ridges or trichomes over the entire surface. Spikelets loosely scattered in an open panicle with slender branches or aggregated towards the ends of the branches; 1–15 on the longest branches; 6–14 mm long, 0.3–4.5 mm wide. Proliferating spikelets present, or absent. Florets 2–10. First glumes present. Glumes unequal, glabrous or with trichomes, vestiture at the apex only or over most of the outer surface, margins ciliate or not ciliate. First glume 1.5–4.5 mm long, veins 1–3. Second glume shorter than the first lemma, 3–6 mm long, veins 3. Rachilla internodes 1–1.5 mm long, antrorsely scabrous. Lemma callus not elongated. Lemma 4–8 mm long, with 5 distinct veins in dorsal view or nerveless in dorsal view or sometimes with only the centre vein distinct, glabrous or with trichomes, trichomes on the upper portion only or over the entire surface; apex entire or apically cleft. Lemma awn present. Lemma awn 0.2–5 mm long. Palea 4.5–7 mm long, distinctly pubescent between the keels. Lodicules with marginal teeth, glabrous or ciliate, 0.7–1.5 mm long. Anthers 2.2–4.5 mm long. Ovary apex glabrous. Caryopsis 2–4.5 mm long.

Cytology. 2n = 14, 21, 28, 42, 49, 53, 56, 64, 70.

Habitat and Distribution. Native, or introduced; naturalized, or cultivated crop (widespread in North America from 69°N in the western Arctic to successful introductions at 62°N in the eastern Arctic on Baffin Island, N.W.T., struggling or absent from warmer areas of the southern United States).

Classification. Subg. Festuca L.


The information for this F. rubra s.l. descripition was synthesised from three taxa in the accepted section of the database, and from three other putative subspecies. 1) There appears to be an "Atlantic coastal morph" and while all the specimens examined are F. rubra, the taxonomic status and rank of the specimens requires further study. 2) Data have been gathered for large specimens from Alaska and the Yukon, that are considered to approach subsp. aucta, that Tzvelev (1976) placed in synonymy with F. rubra. 3) The taxon considered F. diffusa Dumort, by Markgraf-Dannenberg (1980) and F. heteromalla Pourr. by Dubé et al. (1993) is a strong creeping red fescue (2n=56) as defined by Duyvendak et al. (1981), and here treated as a subspecies. This taxon is entered in the experimental section of the database under the name F. rubra subsp. multiflora (Hoffman) Jirasek. It is not certain that this subspecies name is valid as the relevant type specimens have not been examined. Data gathered for the cultivar Chewings fescue are also in the experimental section as it has not been determined how this cultivar received the latin names commonly applied to it.

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).