Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Festuca rubra L.
- Family: Grass (Gramineae)
- Flowering: June-July
- Field Marks: This fescue is characterized by its very narrow leaves about 1/20 inch wide, its lower
leaf sheaths brown, yellow, or purple, soon disintegrating into short-awned lemmas.
- Habitat: Disturbed soils, meadows, bogs, marshes, sometimes in brackish areas.
- Habit: Tufted perennial grass with creeping rootstocks.
- Stems: Spreading to ascending to upright, sometimes rooting at the lower nodes, smooth,
up to 3 feet tall.
- Leaves: Elongated, thread-like to rolled into a slender tube, about 1/20 inch wide, smooth or
short-hairy; lower sheaths brown, yellow, or purple, soon disintegrating into fibers.
- Flowers: Borne in spikelets, with many flowers in a narrow panicle up to 8 inches long.
- Spikelets: 4- to 7-flowered, 1/3-1/2 inch long; glumes linear to narrowly lanceolate, smooth
or slightly rough; lemmas lanceolate, 3- to 5-nerved, with an awn up to 1/6 inch long.
- Sepals: 0.
- Petals: 0.
- Stamens: 3.
- Pistils: Ovary superior, smooth.
- Fruits: Grains ellipsoid, smooth.
- Notes: This family is Poaceae according to Gleason and Cronquist. The grains are eaten by
wild birds. This species is a widely used turf and conservation plant. It is somewhat
shade-tolerant and is an excellent soil binder which is used for stabilizing waterways, banks,
slopes, and as an orchard cover crop. The upright variety commutata is commonly referred
to as Chewing's fescue, while the prostrate variety rubra is called creeping red fescue.
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