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. rubra L.

English: Red fescue,

French: Fétuque rouge,

Inuktitut: Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Sp. Pl. 74. 1753.

Type: Sweden: "In paludosis prati regii Upsalia", selected by Jarvis et al., Watsonia 16: 302. 1987. Lectotype: GB.

Synonymy. For extensive lists of synonymy see Hultén (1942), Hitchcock and Chase (1950), Tzvelev (1976), Alexeev (1985), Pavlick (1985).

Vegetative morphology. Plants 15–90(–120) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose (culms arising close together, appearing caespitose, when plants are constrained by habitat factors), or not caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal; rhizomatous; elongate, or compact; 0.5–1.5 mm wide. Ground level or underground stems scales present; surfaces striate (finely so); 10–20 mm long; hairy. Aerial stems erect, or decumbent. Leaves mainly basal; alternate; marcescent. Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused to the apex; with trichomes; pubescent (fine retrorse hairs); sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.1–0.5 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 30–200 mm long (in Arctic plants), 0.65–2 mm wide (folded), appressed to the stem (usually) or spreading, folded in bud, linear, with sheath auricles, 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 becoming exposed; culm nodes number visible 0–2. Flag leaf sheaths not inflated. Inflorescences paniculate; dense, or diffuse; linear (appressed before and after anthesis), or pyramidal (at anthesis); 2–10(–20) cm long; 10–40 mm wide. Inflorescences main axis scabrous. Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 1–2. Inflorescence primary branches 2–6 mm long; scabrous; with appressed secondary branches, or with spreading secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate; 6–11 mm long; 0.5–1(–1.5) mm wide (in Arctic plant specimens; larger further south). Florets per spikelet 3–6. Two glumes present (unequal.). First glume 3.5–4.6 × the length of the second glume; 0.25–0.5 × spikelet length; 3–4 mm long; lanceolate; with trichomes (at apex only); margins ciliate; veins 1; apex acute. Second glume 0.4 × as long as the spikelet or less to 0.4–0.9 × as long as the spikelet (0.3–0.55 ? as long as the spikelet); shorter than the lowest floret; 3.5–4.6 mm long. Second glume lanceolate. Second glume glabrous; veins 3. Rachilla not pronounced between the florets; terminating in a vestigial floret; internode 0.8–1.2 mm long; internode scabrous (hairs antrorse). Lemma lanceolate; 5–6 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull (often with longitudinal bands of purple colouration; a contrast to the more horizontal bands in other genera, e.g., Poa); surface sparsely scabrous (at apex); surface with trichomes on and between the veins; veins 5; apex acuminate; apex entire; apex glabrous; awned. Awn arising from the tip. Awn 0.5–1.5 mm long. Palea well developed; 4.5–6 mm long; veins scabrous (minute trichomes). Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic); bisexual. Perianth represented by lodicules. Sepals modified (but not a pappus). Petals modified as bristles or perigynia. Stamens 3. Anthers splitting longitudinally. Anthers 2.5–3.5 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 2–4 mm long; indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. Commercial cultivars.

2n (6x) = 42. Numerous sources, e.g., Holmen (1964, northern Alaska, probably subsp. arctica); Hedberg (1967, southern Alaska); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska, probably subsp. arctica); Mitchell and McKendrick (in Brown 1975, northern Alaska, two counts, central Alaska one count).

2n (8x) = 56. P¢lya (1948, central Europe).

Ploidy levels recorded 6x/8x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. This species has been seeded in several communities as a potential lawn grass, and to stabilise steep roadsides. It grows successfully in Iqaluit and at present appears to be the species of choice in the Low Arctic, when attempts are made to landscape around buildings away from the immediate influence of salt water. In front of Arctic College, Iqaluit, it was apparently more successful than Poa pratensis 2–3 years after both species had been seeded there (observation, 1994).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: sand (the long rhizomes of this species have excellent potential for stabilising disturbed ground and roadsides around towns. It would not be expected to compete with established, undisturbed Low Arctic tundra). A commercially available turf species. The cultivar Boreal developed at the Agriculture Station, Beaverlodge, has been planted in Iqaluit and Igloolik. Red fescue is also believed to have been planted at Kimmirut.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, continental Northwest Territories, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador (F. rubra s.l.). Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago limited. Rare. Arctic islands: Baffin (introduced in a few settlements, e.g. Iqaluit as a potential "lawn" grass).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumboreal. 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. An important, commercially available turf grass and probably deliberately introduced to the Arctic islands in several Arctic communities as a potential lawn grass, and to stabilise steep roadsides.

Illustrations. • Habitat: Baffin Island. Festuca rubra forms the zone of purplish grass between the zone of tall green Lolium plants adjacent to the gravel, and the tundra at the bottom of the hill. The gravel slope was hydro-seeded. Seeds and fertiliser appear to have travelled in run-off waters and formed the lush zone at the base. The "C" for Compost is seeded with the same mixture, but plants are about half the size. Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 19 August, 2006. Aiken 06–040. CAN. • Close-up of F. rubra zone. Festuca rubra forms the zone of purplish grass between tall green Lolium plants adjacent to the gravel, and the tundra with Chamerion latifolium. Seeds and fertiliser appear to have travelled in run-off waters and formed a lush zone. Baffin Island, Iqaluit, 19 August, 2006. Aiken 06–040. CAN. • Close-up of plants. Reddish plants of Festuca rubra and mid-green plants of Lolium growing together in the zone of C for Compost. Plants about half as tall as those in the main hydro seeded zone. Baffin Island, Iqaluit, hillside below the hospital. 19 August, 2006. Aiken. • Close-up of adjacent plants. Plants near the marker are yellow green; those in the foreground are a deeper blue green. Baffin Island, Iqaluit, hillside below the CBC Building. 19 August, 2006. Aiken. No voucher. • Close-up of narrow-leaved plants. Bluish green plants near the marker with rhizomatous growth and narrow leaves. Baffin Island, Iqaluit, hillside below the hospital. 19 August, 2006. Aiken 06–040. CAN. • Close-up of broad-leaved plants. Isolated Festuca rubra plant(s) with conspicuously broad leaves. Baffin Island, Iqaluit, hillside below the hospital. 19 August, 2006. Aiken. No voucher. • 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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