Poa arctica R. Br.
arctic bluegrass
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


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E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Poa arctica
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Species Information

Perennial, densely to loosely tufted grass from fibrous roots and rhizomes; stems usually decumbent, 7.5-60 cm tall/long.
Sheaths hairless, margins open 1/2-3/4 their length; sterile shoots mainly breaking through the sheath bases; basal bladeless leaves present; blades 1-4 mm wide, flat or folded; ligules (1) 2-7 mm long, the tips blunt or rounded to sharp-pointed, entire or torn, backs smooth or slightly rough.
Inflorescence a lax to erect panicle, (2) 3.5-15 cm long, sparse, egg-shaped to broadly pyramidal, usually open; lowermost internodes less than 1.5 (3) cm long, the branches 1 to 5 per node, ascending or widely spreading, round, smooth or slightly to moderately rough, spikelets not crowded, longest lowermost branches 2/5-3/5 the length of the panicle; spikelets laterally compressed, 4-8 mm long, (2-) 3- to 6-flowered, sometimes with bulbils; glumes lanceolate to broadly lanceolate, keels indistinct, smooth or slightly rough near the tips, the lower ones 3-nerved, the upper usually nearly equalling to slightly exceeding the lower lemmas; rachillas smooth, hairless or sparsely minutely soft to long silky-hairy; lemmas lanceolate to broadly lanceolate, 3.5-7 mm long, the tips sharp-pointed, margins broadly translucent, surface smooth, keel and marginal nerves long silky-hairy, lateral nerves silky-hairy, mostly short silky-hairy between the nerves, lateral nerves prominent; calluses sparsely to copiously hairy; palea keels silky-hairy most of the length (rarely nearly hairless), minutely soft-hairy (or with at least a few, minute, straight hairs) between the keels; flowers bisexual (some appearing female due to aborted anthers); anthers sometimes aborted late in development or if present, 1.4-2.5 mm long.
Two subspecies occur in BC:

1. Spikelets mostly greater than 6 mm long; lower lemmas 4.5-6 mm long; stem leaf blades often flat and more than 2 mm wide................... ssp. lanata (Scribner & Merr.) Soreng

1. Spikelets less than 6 mm long; lower lemmas 3-4.5 mm long; stem leaf blades mostly folded and less than 2 mm wide................... ssp. arctica

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Poa arctica

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)
1806 5 3000
Slope Gradient (%)
25 0 100

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

192 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 0 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

AT(59), BAFA(191), BWBS(6), cma(3), ESSF(153), IMA(26), MH(18), MS(5), SBPS(2), SBS(1), SWB(34)

Habitat and Range

Moist to wet meadows, gravel bars and stream sides in the montane to alpine zones; ssp. arctica - frequent throughout BC; ssp. lanata - locally frequent in NW BC (poorly defined elsewhere); ssp. arctica - circumboreal, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NS, S to WA and NM; Iceland, Eurasia; ssp. lanata - amphiberingian, N to AK, YT and NT; E Asia.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia