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 rubra L. subsp. richardsonii (Hooker) Hultén

English: Richardson's red fescue,

French: Fétuque de Richardson,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Acta Univ. Lund., n. s., sect. 2, 38, 1: 246. 1942.Acta Univ. Lund., n. s., sect. 2, 38, 1: 246. 1942.

Type: Type of 'richardsonii'. Canada: "Arctic Coast, 1826, new", leg. Richardson, selected by Pavlick, Phytologia 57: 11. 1985. Lectotype: K.

Synonymy. Festuca richardsonii Hooker, Fl. Bor.-Amer. 2: 250. 1840.

Festuca cryophila V.I.Krecz. and Bobrov, in Kom., Fl. URSS 2: 519. 1934.

?Festuca rubra L. subsp. arctica (Hack.) Govor., Fl. Urala 127. 1937.

Festuca rubra L. subsp. eu-rubra var. arenaria (Osbeck) Fr. f. arctica Hack., Monogr. Festuc. Eur. 140. 1882.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 10–50 cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose, or not caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal, or absent; rhizomatous; elongate, or compact; 0.5–2 mm wide. Ground level or underground stems scales present; surfaces smooth; 10–25 mm long; glabrous. Aerial stems erect. Leaves present; mainly basal (or arising along a rhizome); alternate; marcescent. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused to the apex; glabrous, or with trichomes; hirsute (hairs retrorsely so when present); sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.2–0.4 mm long; a fringed membrane; hairy (ciliate at the apex); transversely oblong. Ligule apices truncate; entire, or cleft. Leaves grass-like. Blades 40–170 mm long, 0.4–1.5 mm wide (folded width), appressed to the stem or spreading, folded in bud, linear, involute, veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface hairy. Blade abaxial surface glabrous.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems circular or oval in cross section. Flowering stems with leaves; culm nodes not exposed, or becoming exposed; culm nodes number visible 0–2. Inflorescences paniculate (sometimes spike-like); dense; linear, or lanceolate; (2–)3–5(–7) cm long; 10–12 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis hairy. Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 1–3. Inflorescence primary branches 7–17 mm long; scabrous (or pubescent); with appressed secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate; 6.6–8.7(–10.3) mm long; 1.5–3 mm wide. Florets per spikelet 3–5. Two glumes present. First glume 0.65–0.7 × the length of the second glume; 0.3–0.4 × spikelet length; 2–3.7 mm long; lanceolate; with trichomes (hairy); margins ciliate; veins 1; apex acuminate. Second glume 0.4–0.9 × as long as the spikelet; shorter than the lowest floret; 3–5.3 mm long. Second glume ovate. Second glume with trichomes (a few long hairs); veins 3. Rachilla not pronounced between the florets; extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 0.9–1.2 mm long; internode hairy. Callus not differentiated. Lemma ovate; (4–)4.4–6.2 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull; surface hairy (often densely so, over the entire surface); surface with trichomes on and between the veins; veins 5; apex acute; apex entire; apex ciliate; awned. Awn arising from the tip. Awn 0.6–1.6 mm long. Palea well developed; 4.3–5.4 mm long; veins hairy (also hairy between the veins). Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic); bisexual. Perianth represented by lodicules. Sepals modified (but not a pappus). Stamens 3. Anthers splitting longitudinally. Anthers 2–3 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 1.8–2.5 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n (6x) = 42. Flovik (1938, Svalbard); Sokolovskaya (1955, 1970, northeastern Russia); Löve and Löve (1956, Iceland); Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1960, 1962); Knaben and Engelskjøn (1967, northern Norway); Zhukova (1967a, northeastern Asia); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1971, 1972, northeastern Asia; 1975, western Chukotka); Zhukova et al. (1973, northeastern Asia); Krogulevich (1976a, northern Siberia); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1978, eastern Chukotka); Engelskjøn (1979, Bear Island); Zhukova (1980, southern Chukotka); Löve (1981b, northern Canada); Alexeev et al. (1987, Russia-Siberia).

2n (8x) = 56. Zhukova (1965b, as 'rubra'); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1972); both listed as F. eriantha by Löve and Löve (1975).

Ploidy levels recorded 6x/8x.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: river terraces, tundra, ridges (drumlins), dry meadows (grassy barrens); moderately well-drained areas; sand, silt, till; calcareous (e.g., marine reworked carbonate bedrock; sometimes weakly calcareous substrates). Indicative of warmer arctic environments. The rhizomes of this taxon contribute to stabilising sand or silt dunes in which the plants grow.

North American distribution. This taxon has a limited distribution in the western Arctic islands, with several records from Victoria Island and small islands near it. The collection from Melville Island, S.A. Edlund 379A (CAN) was from an area well used by muskoxen. The suggestion by Arve Elvebakk, University of Troms? (personal communication, 1991), that this species has been found on Devon Island at Truelove Inlet has not been confirmed. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands (?), continental Nunavut, northern Quebec (?), Labrador (?). Arctic islands: Parry islands (Melville), Banks, Victoria.

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar. Northern Iceland, Northern Fennoscandian, Kanin–Pechora, Svalbard – Franz Joseph Land, Polar Ural – Novaya Zemlya, Yamal–Gydan, Taimyr – Severnaya Zemlya, Anabar–Olenyok, Kharaulakh, Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. Taxonomically, Elven et al. (2003) noted that this is a very complicated complex, "as indicated for Europe by Markgraf-Dannenberg (1980, Fl. Eur. 5) who recognised about 14 species and split F. rubra s.s. into seven subspecies. All ploidy levels from di- to decaploid are reported. There seems, however, to be one main hexaploid entity everywhere in the Arctic, even if it goes by different names (arctica, cryophila, mutica, richardsonii). The characters given by Markgraf-Dannenberg also mostly hold true, even if hairiness of the lemmas may vary. The main problem is the other, more southern 'races' that reach the Arctic both as natives in some areas (at least in northern Fennoscandia, Svalbard, southern Greenland, and Alaska) and sometimes as deliberate introductions."

The name 'arenaria' has been widely used for the major arctic race until fairly recently. All checked records of F. arenaria or F. rubra subsp. arenaria in the Arctic are referrable to F. rubra. subsp. arctica. Subspecies arctica and subsp. arenaria have the hairy lemmas in common, but little else. As currently understood, subsp. arenaria is confined to western European sand dunes north to southwestern Norway and the southern Baltic, but very far from the Arctic.

Elven et al. (2003) noted that no exact reference to a type of Hackel's 'arctica' had been found whereas there is a clearly identifiable type of Hooker's 'richardsonii' ("Arctic Coast, 1826, new", leg. Dr. Richardson). This was an argument for using the name subsp. richardsonii instead of subsp. arctica even if the latter has priority as subspecies. The identity of the Russian F. cryophila Krecz. and Bobrov and the North American F. richardsonii Hooker with subsp. arctica is assumed but not finally proved as long as we have not compared types.

This entity differs from F.rubra s. s. in several characters, partly assumed independent (awn length, lemma hairiness, leaf width and structure), but there is an even transition between subsp. arctica and subsp. rubra at least in the Fennoscandian area, Greenland and northern Yukon. For this reason the taxon is treated as a subspecies rather than species. The well-documented counts are hexaploid (and possibly octoploid).

Illustrations. • Drawing. Note compact inflorescence with short branches and spikelets that are very hairy. From Porsild and Cody (1957, 1980) as F. rubra var. arenaria. See notes for discussion of this name. • Close-up of inflorescence. Drawing by Mrs. S. Bergh and Mrs. L. Barstad based on a collection from Svalbard, Andrée Land, Wide Bay, Malafjell, 75 msm. 22 August, 1924. J. Lid. (as F. rubra var. arenaria, det. F. rubra var. mutica P.M. Jørgensen, 7 January 1969). (Festuca rubra var. mutica is synonymous with subsp. arctica and with subsp. richardsonii.) O 205898. With permission of the Botanical Museum, University of Oslo, Norway. • Syntype specimen. Syntype specimen from GH. Annotation by C.V. Piper reads: "This is quite the same as European specimens referred to Festuca rubra arenaria Fries (forma arctica) of Hackel Man. 140." Annotation by C.A. Taylor reads: "Probable isotype of F. Richardsonii Hooker ("Arctic coast -- new (?)" scripsit A. Gray). Richardson was in the area in 1825–27 trip with Franklin. 27 August, 1947". • 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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