Festuca of North America


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

Festuca viviparoidea Krajina ex Pavlick s.l.


Can. J. Bot. 62: 2454. 1984. F. vivipara subsp. glabra Frederiksen, Nord. J. Bot. 1: 288–289. 1981. Type: Greenland. Jameson Land: Gurreholm, 14 August 1958, K. Holmen 807. Holotype: C.

F. brachyphylla forma vivipara Skvortsov. Fl. Arct. URSS: 222–223. 1964, nom. nud.

F. viviparoidea subsp. krajinae Pavlick, Can. J. Bot. 62: 2456. 1984. Type: Canada. British Columbia: Liard River Basin, Fairy Lake, upper alpine lake west of camp at western tip of Fairy Lake, 57°20'N 123°56'W, bare gravel soil in animal trail, 26 July 1977, G. W. Argus & E. Haber 9987; Holotype: V. Isotype: CAN!

Habit. Plants bluish gray green, 11–20–28 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, not conspicuous at the base of the plant or conspicuous at the base of the plant, persisting for more than 1 year, splitting between the veins, closed more than half their length or open more than half their length. Collars glabrous. Auricles represented by distinct, erect, swellings. Auricular cilia absent. Ligules 0.1–0.25–0.5 mm long, ciliate. Leaf blades 3–9–16 cm long, more or less lax. Adaxial blade surfaces with trichomes, abaxial blade surfaces with trichomes. Leaf blades plicate; 0.35–0.5–0.6 mm wide, 0.6–0.7–0.85 mm deep. Veins 5–7. Adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands absent. Abaxial sclerenchyma poorly developed or well developed, in discrete, relatively narrow strands opposite the veins. Ribs 1. Uppermost culm leaf sheaths not inflated. Flag leaf blades 1.4–2.5–3.5 cm long. Culm nodes becoming exposed, 1; internodes glabrous, or densely pubescent.

Floral morphology. Inflorescence 1–3 cm long. Inflorescence branches at the lowest node 1, appressed after anthesis, 0.2–1 cm long. Rachis angular in cross section, trichomes mainly on the ridges or trichomes over the entire surface. Spikelets aggregated towards the ends of the branches; 1–2 on the longest branches; 7–25 mm long, 1.5–3 mm wide. Proliferating spikelets present. Florets 1–4. 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 3–4.2 mm long, veins 1. Second glume shorter than the first lemma, 3.6–6 mm long, veins 3. Lemma callus not elongated. Lemma 3.6–6.9 mm long, nerveless in dorsal view or sometimes with only the centre vein distinct, with trichomes, trichomes on the upper portion only or over the entire surface; apex entire. Lemma awn present. Lemma awn 0–0.8 mm long. Palea 4.8–5.2 mm long (if present), distinctly pubescent between the keels (if applicable). Lodicules probably not formed. Anthers 2 mm long. Ovary apex glabrous.

Cytology. 2n = 49, 56.

Habitat and Distribution. Native; arctic, or alpine. Holoarctic, and alpine habitats. Greenland; Canada: B.C. (the western cordillera), Franklin District (NWT) (on north eastern Ellesmere Island); Northwestern USA: Alaska; Rocky Mountains USA: Mont.

Classification. Subg. Festuca L.


Following Frederiksen (1982) and Alexeev (1985) the species and subspecies recognized by Pavlick (1984) are treated as synonymous. Pavlick (1984) speculated on the hybrid origin of this taxon as F. baffinensis Polunin × F. brachyphylla Schult. & Schult. f. Both the postulated parents occur on Ellesmere Island and in the western cordillera. Some of the nine specimens at CAN from the western cordillera, annotated by Pavlick as F. viviparoidea subsp. krajinae, have rhizomes. This suggests one of the parents may be a member of F. rubra s.l., possibly F. rubra subsp. richardsonii (Hook.) Hultén, as hairs occur on the lemmas of F. viviparoidea. There is a diversity in the leaf cross sections of plants from this area (observed by S. Aiken among specimens at CAN) and illustrated by Alexeev (1985).

The name F. vivipara was applied in North America to any fescue of the ovina group with proliferating spikelets (Hitchcock and Chase 1951, Boivin 1967, Scoggan 1978). Festuca vivipara subsp. vivipara is an old-world taxon not known from North America. A polyphyletic origin for this taxon is suggested by the diversity of morphological forms, leaf cross section anatomy, and the chromosome numbers. It has been suggested that the viviparous Festuca may be species complexes of hybrid origin that persist by means of vegetative proliferation or "vivipary" (Flovik 1938, Tzvelev 1972b, Siplivinskii 1973, Frederiksen 1981, and Pavlick 1984). For further discussion of viviparous fescues see Aiken et al. (1987) and Aiken and Darbyshire (1990).


• 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).