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

Festuca rubra L.
red fescue
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #11430)

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Distribution of Festuca 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

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Summer
Source:  The USDA

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


Ecological Framework for Festuca rubra

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 776 2394
Slope Gradient (%) 0 23 120
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 167 359
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(21), BWBS(7), CDF(5), CWH(85), ESSF(17), ICH(5), IDF(21), MS(4), PP(3), SBS(9)


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.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

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General References