Festuca of North America


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

Festuca valesiaca Schleich. ex Gaud. s.l.



Agrost. Helv. 1: 242. 1811. Type: "hab. in loci arenosis Valesiae. Cicra Brenson copiose..." (Chase and Niles 1962).

F. valesiaca subsp. pseudovina (Hack. ex Wiesb.) Hegi, Illustr. Fl. Mitteleuropa 2. 334. 1908. F. ovina var. pseudovina Hack. Bot. Centralb. 8: 405. 1881. Festuca pseudovina Hack. ex Wiesb., Oesterr. Bot. Z. 30: 126. 1880. Type: Im Thale der reichen Liesing zwischen Kalksburg und dem Rothen Stadel (Austria). Holotype: Herbar. Kitaibel in Banat-Romania (Chase and Niles 1962).

Habit. Plants bluish gray green, 20–40(–50) 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, conspicuous at the base of the plant, persisting for more than 1 year (sometimes not very conspicuous), remaining entire, not conspicuously splitting between the veins, open more than half their length. Collars glabrous. Auricles represented by distinct, erect, swellings. Auricular cilia absent. Ligules 0.2–0.4 mm long, ciliate. Leaf blades erect, stiffish. Adaxial blade surfaces with trichomes, abaxial blade surfaces with trichomes (or scabrid, trichomes sometimes conspicuously long). Leaf blades plicate; 0.2–0.35–0.5 mm wide, 0.4–0.6–0.85 mm deep. Veins 5–7. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma well developed, in broad bands or continuous (3 stout strands at midvein and blade margins, sclerenchyma rarely confluent; leaf cross sections similar to those of F. lenensis Drobow but smaller). Ribs 1 (well defined, 2 poorly defined). Uppermost culm leaf sheaths not inflated. Flag leaf blades 1–4 cm long. Culm nodes becoming exposed (usually), 1 (when visible); internodes glabrous, or scabrous-hirsute (almost glabrous in subsp. pseudovina (Hack. ex Wiesb.) Hegi, scabrous in subsp. valesiaca).

Floral morphology. Inflorescence 2–7 cm long (2–4 cm long in subsp. pseudovina; 3–7 cm long in subsp. valesiaca). Inflorescence branches at the lowest node 1, appressed after anthesis, 0.5–1.5 cm long. Rachis angular in cross section, trichomes mainly on the ridges. Spikelets 1–4 on the longest branches; 4.5–8.5 mm long (4–6 mm in subsp. pseudovina, 6.5–8.5(-10) mm in subsp. valesiaca), 1.5–3.5 mm wide. Proliferating spikelets absent. Florets 2–5. Glumes unequal, with trichomes, vestiture at the apex only (sparsely scabrous), margins ciliate. First glume 2–3 mm long, veins 1. Second glume shorter than the first lemma, (2.2–)2.5–4(–4.3) mm long, veins 3. Rachilla internodes antrorsely scabrous (sparsely). Lemma callus not elongated. Lemma (2.6–)3.4–5(–5.2) mm long, nerveless in dorsal view or sometimes with only the centre vein distinct, glabrous or with trichomes, trichomes on the upper portion only (scabrous or ciliate); apex entire. Lemma awn 1.5–2 mm long (1/3 to approaching 1/2 as long as the lemma). Palea 3.2–4.8(–5.1) mm long, distinctly pubescent between the keels. Lodicules with marginal teeth, glabrous, 0.6–0.9 mm long. Anthers 2.1–2.6 mm long. Ovary apex glabrous. Caryopsis 2.8–3.2 mm long.

Cytology. 2n = 14, 28.

Habitat and Distribution. Introduced; grown experimentally, but not extensively (some collections labelled F. ovina in North American herbaria, have been found to belong to this taxon); alpine (planted to stabilize ski slopes in the Rocky Mountains).

Classification. Subg. Festuca L.


Festuca valesiaca is an European species sold under the trade name "pseudovina", apparently to a limited extent in North America. The species has been grown experimentally in New Jersey at Rutgers University, in New York at Ithaca, in Washington State at Pullman, and as a lawn grass in Kansas, Saline County. Records indicate that it has been planted in Lincoln County, Wyoming, Carbon County, Montana, and in the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona. A record from the Yukon was found by S.J. Darbyshire (Canada: N.W.T.: 10 km south of Mackenzie Highway, 61°17'N, 120°56'W, hummocky till, moraine, boreal mixed woods, elevation 800 ft. Revegetation trial No. 17. Ditch seeded in Jan-Mar. 1985. Specimen collected, 14 July 1986, Kaye MacInnes 86–70, DAO). Whether the plants are still extant is not known. Barbara Wilson has drawn our attention to four specimens from Vermont in the Pringle herbarium (VT).

The taxon is distinguished from other introduced Festuca species by the leaf cross sections that have heavy sclerenchyma only at the midrib and leaf margins and in these respects are similar to the leaf sections of F. lenensis, and rarely to leaves of F. saximontana Rydb.

Festuca valesiaca occurs naturally in the fescue steppes of the southeastern Altai and the Dauria steppe of the Transbaikal region where it is a valuable forage, particularly in the spring (Dulepova 1986, Namzalov 1986). Both F. valesiaca and F. lenensis are dominant grasses in steppes of southern Chunya, although F. valesiaca appears to be more important and widespread. Tzvelev (1976) considered subsp. valesiaca a more xerophilic taxon than subsp. pseudovina.

The taxonomic confusion surrounding the name F. valesiaca and the taxa recognized within the complex are indicated by the 36 entries associated with the name in Chase and Niles (1962). Tzvelev (1976) recognized F. valesiaca subsp. valesiaca and F. valesiaca subsp. pseudovina; Markgraf-Dannenberg (1980) considered the latter to be a full species F. pseudovina. The taxon is not well understood in North America.


• Herbarium specimen: NAU. Herbarium specimen of F. valesiaca. Sample collected in Arizona, Kaibab Forest near the Grand Canyon. It was possibly planted to stabilize roadsides in the area. • Line drawing. Illustration of F. valesiaca from Hegi, G. 1906. Illustrierte Flora von Mittel-Europa. • Leaf anatomy. Leaf cross section of F. valesiaca. Leaf blades are 0.2–0.35–0.5 mm wide and 0.4–0.6–0.85 mm deep, with 5–7 veins. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands are absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma strands are well developed, in broad bands or continuous. There are 3 stout strands at midvein and blade margins; sclerenchyma rarely confluent. Leaf cross sections are similar to those of F. lenensis Drobow, but smaller. There is one well defined rib and 2 poorly defined ribs.

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).