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 hyperborea Holmen ex Frederiksen

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Bot. Not. 130: 273. 1977.

Type: Greenland: Heilprin Land, Brønlund Fjord, at Kegelkrogselv, 82°10'N, 31°W, 28.07.1950, leg. K.A.Holmen 8078. Holotype: C! Isotype: DAO!.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 2.5–10(–13.5) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems absent. Aerial stems erect (loosely tufted; commonly appearing as a clump made up of numerous tufts which can be separated into distinct bundles of dead sheaths accumulating under leaves of the actively growing plant; tillering is often apparent in the stems that are surrounded by dead sheaths. Dead sheaths are pale grey or straw-cream-coloured). Leaves mainly basal (green, often purple, pinkish tinged, often re-curved); alternate; marcescent. Prophylls 7–10 mm long; with smooth veins (with a few scattered hairs); lacking pronounced keels. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part; glabrous; sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.3–0.6 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 10–60 mm long (-80 mm long when plants are grown in the greenhouse), 0.4–0.7 mm wide (when folded), reflexed (or re-curved basal leaves), folded in bud, linear, with sheath auricles or without auricles, folded, veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface scabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous (appearing so, but with appressed hairs, see Aiken et al. 1994).

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. Flag leaf sheaths inflated (slightly, sometimes to 1.2 mm wide, blade characteristically less than 8 mm long and spoon-shaped; usually tiny as the inflorescence is emerging). Inflorescences paniculate (often small and spike-like); dense; linear; 1.1–2.2 cm long; 4–10 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis scabrous (sparse). Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 1–2. Inflorescence primary branches 1–4 mm long; glabrous (to scaberulous); with appressed secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate; 3–6.5 mm long; 2–5 mm wide. Florets per spikelet 3–5(–6). Two glumes present. First glume 0.75–0.9 × the length of the second glume; 0.3–0.4 × spikelet length; 1–3.5 mm long (0.2–0.6 mm wide, conspicuously narrower than upper glume); lanceolate; glabrous; margins ciliate; veins 1; apex acuminate. Second glume 0.4 × as long as the spikelet or less; shorter than the lowest floret; 2.2–3.2 mm long (0.5–0.9 mm wide). Second glume lanceolate (characteristically broader in the centre). Second glume glabrous; veins 3. Rachilla not pronounced between the florets; extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 1 mm long; internode hairy (sparsely). Lemma lanceolate; 2.9–4 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull; surface sparsely scabrous; surface with trichomes on and between the veins; veins 5; apex acuminate; apex bifid (very slightly); awned. Awn arising from below the apex but above the middle (described as subterminal, but close to terminal, slightly curved or geniculate). Awn 0.7–3 mm long. Palea well developed; 3–3.5 mm long; veins scabrous (towards the apex). Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic); bisexual. Perianth represented by lodicules. Stamens 3. Anthers 0.4–1.1 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 2.3–3 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n (4x) = 28. Holmen (1952, Greenland); Aiken et al. (1995b, Canada); Guldahl (1999, Svalbard); Guldahl et al. (2001, Svalbard, three sites).

Only tetraploids are known from verified F. hyperborea. The Russian counts of Sokolovskaya and Probatova, in Tzvelev (1976), were made on material identified from the insufficient first description of Holmen (1952). The investigated chromosome vouchers in LE represent F. edlundiae (2n = 28) and small-grown F. brachyphylla (2n = 42) (Aiken and Elven, observations, 2000).

A count of 2n = 28 was published as applying to a specimen of F. brachyphylla by Mosquin and Hayley (1966) M. and H. 6458. The voucher specimens at DAO were re-examined by Aiken in 1994 and annotated as F. hyperborea.

Ploidy levels recorded 4x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. The plants are sometimes indicative of a mildly nitrophilous environment around Thule houses.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: river terraces, tundra, slopes, ridges; imperfectly drained moist areas; sand, moss; calcareous (weakly). Prefers slightly drier sites than F. edlundiae. Abundant at the Thule site at Resolute Bay and in 1990 on the road to Satellite Hill, Cornwallis Island. Festuca edlundiae appears to tolerate more alkaline conditions than does F. hyperborea. It does not appear to tolerate conditions as alkaline as do plants of F. edlundiae.

North American distribution. Northwest Territories Islands, Nunavut Islands. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Common. Arctic. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Bathurst, Little Cornwallis), Cornwallis, Banks, Prince of Wales, Somerset (Amund Ringnes, Loughead, Stefansson, and Melville Peninsula).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar (interruptedly high arctic). Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. This species was mentioned in Porsild (1964) but not mapped, although he believed it to occur on the northern islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Festuca hyperborea was distinguished by Holmen (1952), but the name was not validly published until a study by Frederiksen (1977). Discussed in Aiken et al. (1994, 1995b).

Elven et al. (2003) noted that only tetraploids (2n = 28) are known from verified F. hyperborea. The Russian counts of Sokolovskaya and Probatova, in Tzvelev (1976), were made on material identified from the insufficient first description of Holmen (1952). The investigated chromosome vouchers in LE represent F. edlundiae (2n = 28) and small-grown F. brachyphylla (2n = 42) (Aiken and Elven, unpublished, 1999). Most of the counts referred to this species by Löve and Löve (1975) must be critically checked against vouchers, as some of them may refer to the later described F. edlundiae.

A revision of large parts of the materials in LE proved F. hyperborea to be very rare in Russia. Alexeev had applied Holmen's very insufficient criteria and determined nearly all small-grown F. brachyphylla as F. hyperborea. We (Aiken and Elven 1998) found evidence for F. hyperborea in the restricted sense of Frederiksen (1977), Aiken et al. (1995b), Guldahl (1999), Fjellheim et al. (2001), and Guldahl et al. (2001), only from a very few areas: northernmost Taimyr, Severnaya Zemlya, and perhaps Novosiberian Islands. All plants named as such from Chukotka and Wrangel Island were reidentified. The regions in Russian Far East are therefore omitted from the distributional parts of the Panarctic Flora Checklist (Elven et al. 2003).

The same may be the case in North America. During a 1999 expedition, F. hyperborea was only found in the northernmost, coldest parts of the Canadian Arctic. The tetraploid counts of Aiken et al. (1995b) also came from these areas. It is very easy to mistake small-grown F. brachyphylla for F. hyperborea. Elven claimed to have seen no specimens from Alaska of this species (Elven, personal communication, 2001).

Illustrations. • Holotype specimen. Densely tufted plants less than 10 cm tall. Uppermost culm leaves of this species are inconspicuous. Greenland, Pearyland, Jorgan Bronlands Fjord. 28 July, 1950. A. Holmen 8078. (Holotype: C). • Habitat. Plants approximately 6 cm tall. Habitat of plant growing in the tundra on Satellite Hill. Nunavut, Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay. Aiken 92–052. CAN. Photograph by H. Gibbins. Scale bar in cm. • Drawings of habit and spikelet. Note tendency of the tufted leaves to recurve in the habit drawing. Note that the awn is subterminal, (sometimes visible in the in a side view of a floret). Drawing by S. Laurie-Bourque. (a: scale bar 1 cm; d: scale bar 1 mm). Reproduced from Syst. Bot. 20: 385, with permission of the artist. • 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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