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

Poa alpina L.
alpine blue grass (alpine bluegrass)
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #91027)

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Distribution of Poa alpina
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Poa alpina ssp. alpina

Species Information

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Perennial, densely tufted grass from fibrous roots; stems 10-40 cm tall.
Mostly basal, not glaucous; sheath margins open about 3/4 their length, basal sheaths persistent, densely overlapping; sterile shoots emerging strictly inside sheaths with distinct two-keeled buds protecting the scales; blades 2-4.5 mm wide, flat, thick, short, basal ones widely spreading, persisting through the season, upper stem ones much reduced in length; ligules rounded at tips, those of the sterile shoot leaves 1-2 (3) mm long, those of upper stem leaves up to 4 (5) mm long, backs smooth, hairless.
Inflorescence an erect panicle, 2-6 (8) cm long, egg-shaped to pyramidal, congested, contracted at maturity, terminal internodes 0.6-1 (1.5) cm long, the branches 1 to 2 per node, ascending to spreading, round, smooth or very slightly rough (rarely distinctly rough all around), the stalks widely spreading from the tips; spikelets laterally compressed, broadly lanceolate to egg-shaped, 3.9-6.2 mm long, 3- to 7-flowered; glumes broadly lanceolate, the lower 3-nerved; rachilla internodes less than 1 mm long, smooth, hairless; lemmas broadly lanceolate, 3-5 mm long, the tips sharp-pointed, keels and marginal nerves silky-hairy, sparsely to moderately short silky-hairy between the nerves; calluses hairless; paleas mostly minutely soft- to silky-hairy, the keels rough near the tips; flowers bisexual; anthers 1.3-2.3 mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist to wet meadows, gravel bars, avalanche tracks and talus slopes in the montane to alpine zones; common throughout BC; circumboreal, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and NS, and S to MI, OR, CO, UT and NM; Greenland, Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Poa alpina

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) 5 1931 3000
Slope Gradient (%) 0 26 300
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 189 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
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(130), BAFA(232), BWBS(1), CMA(4), CWH(2), ESSF(438), ICH(1), IMA(74), MH(17), MS(3), SBPS(3), SBS(1), SWB(47)


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 alpine tundra & boreal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Poa alpina subsp. vivipara (L.) Arcang.
Poa alpina var. vivipara L.
Poa vivipara (L.) Willd.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References