E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Festuca rubra L. subsp. rubra
red fescue
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #11425)

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Distribution of Festuca rubra subsp. rubra
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Species Information

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Perennial, loosely tufted grass usually from rhizomes; stems 15-90 (120) cm tall, with visible nodes.
Sheaths usually reddish, often shredding into fibres and often with hairs angled backwards, not persistent at the base of the stems; blades 6-30 cm long, 0.5-4 mm wide, folded or loosely folded; ligules 0.1-0.5 mm long.
Inflorescence an open or loosely compact panicle, (2) 5-14 (20) cm long, the branches 1.5-8 cm long; spikelets (2-) 4- to 6- (10-) flowered, rarely with leafy bulbils in place of flowers, (6) 9-12 (13) mm long; lower glumes (2) 2.5-3.5 (4.5) mm long, the upper ones 3.5-5.5 (6) mm long; lemmas (4) 5-7 (8) mm long, awned, the awns (0.3) 1-3.3 (5) mm long; anthers (2.2) 3-4 (4.5) mm long; ovary tops smooth.
This polymorphic species complex is treated here as a single species for convenience, following Aiken and Darbyshire (1990) and Aiken (1993, 1994). Some distinctive native and introduced forms have been recognized as separate species or treated at infraspecific rank; however, numerous transitional forms occur between most of them (Pavlick 1985). Over 100 cultivated varieties of this complex are sold in Europe; some have been introduced into North America where hybridization with native forms further obscures the taxonomic picture. For an alternative treatment see Pavlick (1985), who recognized eight subspecies and two varieties for the complex in BC.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Wet to mesic beaches, tidal marshes, streambanks, meadows, gravelly sites and dry disturbed areas, roadsides and fields in the lowland to alpine zones; common in coastal and S BC, infrequent in N BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT, NT, E to NF, and S to TN, NC, TX, NM and CA; Greenland, Iceland, Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Festuca prolifera (Piper) Fernald
Festuca prolifera var. lasiolepis Fern.
Festuca rubra subsp. arctica (Hack.) Govor.
Festuca rubra subsp. arenicola
Festuca rubra subsp. aucta (Krecz. & Bobr.) Hultén
Festuca rubra subsp. aucta
Festuca rubra subsp. juncea (Hack.) So=
Festuca rubra subsp. pruinosa (Hack.) Piper
Festuca rubra subsp. secunda (J. Presl) Pavlick
Festuca rubra subsp. secunda
Festuca rubra subsp. vallicola (Rydb.) Pavlick
Festuca rubra subsp. vulgaris (Gaudin) Hayek
Festuca rubra var. juncea (Hack.) Richter
Festuca rubra var. prolifera (Piper) Piper
Festuca rubra var. richardsonii

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References