Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

Festuca baffinensis Polunin

English: Baffin fescue,

French: Fétuque de Baffin,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Bull. Natl. Mus. Canada 92 (Biol. Ser. 24): 91. 1940.

Type: Canada. Nunavut: Baffin Island, Pond Inlet, 12 Sept. 1934, N. Polunin 706, selected by L.E. Pavlick, 1984. Holotype at GH missing, cotype at CAN missing. Paratype and Topotype: GH! CAN! Polunin 705. Lectotype: BM!

Synonymy. Festuca brevifolia var. arctica Saint-Yves subvar. pubiculmis Saint-Yves, Candollea 2: 254. 1925.

Festuca brachyphylla Schult. and Schult. f. var. arctica subvar. pubiculmis (St. Yves) Litard, Candollea 10: 108. 1945.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 5–20(–27) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose (more or less uniform tufts, without conspicuous dead sheaths). Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems absent. Aerial stems erect. Leaves mainly basal (deep bluish green); alternate; marcescent. Prophylls 5–15 mm long; with smooth veins; lacking pronounced keels. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part (approximately half the length of the sheath, Fredriksen, 1982); glabrous; sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.1–0.3 mm long; membranous; hairy (ciliate at the apex); transversely oblong. Ligule apices truncate (and higher on sides than middle); entire, or cleft. Leaves grass-like. Blades (15–)30–100(–170) mm long, 0.5–1.2 mm wide (when folded), appressed to the stem (leaves erect), folded in bud (margins often slightly inrolled), linear, without auricles, folded (loosely), veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface hairy. Blade abaxial surface glabrous.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems two or more per plant. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems with leaves; culm nodes not exposed (usually). Flag leaf sheaths inflated (somewhat, flag leaf blades 0.5–3.7 cm long, 0.7–1.9 mm wide). Inflorescences paniculate (sometimes deep purple); dense; lanceolate to ovate (ovoid and very dense in shorter plants, to elongate and narrow, F. brachyphylla-like in taller plants); 1.5–3(–4) cm long; 5–15 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis hairy. Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 1, or 2 (usually). Inflorescence primary branches 3–15 mm long; scabrous; with appressed secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate; 4.5–8.5 mm long; 1.5–2.5 mm wide. Florets per spikelet 2–5(–6). Two glumes present. First glume 0.65–0.8 × the length of the second glume; 0.46–0.53 × spikelet length; 2.2–3.7 mm long (0.3–0.7 mm wide); lanceolate; glabrous; margins ciliate; veins 1; apex acuminate. Second glume 0.4–0.9 × as long as the spikelet; shorter than the lowest floret; 3–5 mm long (0.6–1.2 mm wide). Second glume lanceolate. Second glume glabrous; veins 3. Rachilla not pronounced between the florets; extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 0.8–1.2 mm long; internode glabrous. Lemma lanceolate; 3.5–5.6 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull; surface sparsely scabrous; surface with trichomes on and between the veins (near top); veins 5; apex acuminate; apex entire; apex glabrous; awned. Awn arising from the tip. Awn 0.8–2.5(–3.3) mm long. Palea well developed; 3.5–6 mm long; veins scabrous. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic). Perianth represented by lodicules. Stamens 3. Anthers splitting longitudinally. Anthers (0.3–)0.5–1.1 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries hairy. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 2–2.5 mm long (ovary apex with a few sparse hairs); hairy (a few sparse hairs at the apex); indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n = 28 (4x). Holmen (1952, Greenland; 1964, Alaska); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Bowden (1960a, northern Canada); Zhukova (1965b, Wrangel Island); Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1971, Wrangel Island); Zhukova and Tikhonova (1973, Chukotka); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1978, eastern Chukotka); Engelskjøn (1979, Svalbard); Aiken et al. (1995b, northern Canada); Guldahl (1999, Svalbard); Guldahl et al. (2001, Svalbard, four sites). A few more southern counts.

Ploidy levels recorded 4x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. Commonly indicative of organic, moist, or nitrophilous environments. This species is often found associated with former Thule houses. It flourished near the base of an observation tower at the biological station, Polar Bear Pass, Bathurst Island.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: wet meadows, hummocks (wet), around the margins of ponds (rarely in the saturated soil of former ponds), along streams, river terraces, lakeshores (on erosion slopes), tundra (in low ridges of polygons or raised centres, and sometimes in dwarf shrub barrens), slopes, ridges (rocky), cliffs; imperfectly drained moist areas, seepage slopes (sheltered, moist, southfacing slopes), dry, moderately well-drained areas; rocks, gravel, sand, silt, clay, till (silty), moss; with high organic content (when associated with Thule sites and lemming burrows), peat (sometimes); calcareous, or nitrophilous. Occurring on moist disturbed soils, in frost cracks, or on floodplains, most commonly on weakly to moderately alkaline silty sand and gravel, as well as mossy hillocks.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Uncommon. Arctic, alpine. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Prince Patrick, Melville, and Bathurst), Cornwallis, Banks, Victoria, Prince of Wales, Somerset, King William, Southampton (Prince Charles, Salisbury, and Melville Peninsula).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Amphi-Atlantic, or amphi-Beringian, or North American. Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. While McNeill and Dore (1976) suggested that F. baffinensis may be a subspecies of F. brachyphylla, species status was supported in isozyme studies (Aiken et al. 1993, 1995b, 1997) and by studies of material from Svalbard (Fjellheim et al. 2001, Guldahl et al. 2001).

The plants from east Chukotka (LE) deviate towards F. brachyphylla in general habit but confirm with F. baffinensis in formal characters (e.g., hairs on the ovary). This seems to be the only place within its range where there might be a problem identifying this species (Elven et al. 2003). It has often been considered a part of the F. brachyphylla aggregate but may not be very closely related to it (Aiken and Elven, in Elven et al. 2005).

Fjellheim et al. (2001) evaluated morphological and RAPD DNA variation in four members of the Festuca brachyphylla complex occurring on Svalbard and found Festuca baffinensis was the most distinct taxon.

Guldahl et al. (2001) studied the variation in the Festuca brachyphylla (Poaceae) complex in Svalbard, elucidated by chromosome numbers and isozymes.

Illustrations. • Habitat: Iqaluit. Plants with deep purple heads growing beside the marker and in adjacent tundra at site known as "eskimo village". Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, Sylvia Grinnell Park. 1 August, 2005. Aiken 05–072. CAN 586944. • Close-up of plant. Plant with deep purple heads growing to left of marker and in adjacent tundra at the "eskimo village" site. Note lush mossy habitat. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, Sylvia Grinnell Park. 1 August, 2005. Aiken 05–072. CAN 586944. This is only the second site in Iqaluit where this species has been collected. One small plant was found near the main entrance ot the park in 1986. A similar species, Festuca brachyphylla, occurs on dry sandy habitats and is abundant in Iqaluit. • Habitat: Melville Island.,1985. Cespitose grass with dark purple inflorescences growing on a gravel solifluction slope. N.W.T., Melville Island, Ibbet Bay. 1985. • Garbage-dump habitat. Plants with purple brown heads growing near the centre of the picture are lush specimens of Festuca baffinensis that appear to be benefitting from additional nutrients in the area. Plants were twice as high as others nearby. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Nikko Island. 1998. Aiken. Voucher CAN. • Paratype specimen. Specimen collected at Nunavut, Baffin Island, Pond Inlet. 12 September, 1934. N. Polunin 705. (Paratype: GH). • Lectotype specimen. Specimen collected at Nunavut, Baffin Island, Pond Inlet. 12 September, 1934. N. Polunin 706. (Lectotype designated by Pavlick (1981). Holotype at GH missing. Isotype at CAN missing). • Arctic Island Distribution.


This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.

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