Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago


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 brachyphylla Schult. and Schult. f.

English: Alpine fescue,

French: Fétuque à feuilles courtes,

Inuktitut: Ivilsugait, Iviit, ivisuka, ivitsuskaka.

Poaceae, Grass family.

Published in Mantissa 3 (Add. 1): 646. 1827.

Type: Canada. Melville Island, Mr. (J.) Edwards on W.E. Parry expedition 1819–1820, selected by Frederiksen 1982. Lectotype: BM!

Synonymy. Festuca brevifolia R. Br., Chlor. Melvill. 31. 1823, non Muhl. 1817.

Festuca ovina var. brachyphylla (Schult.) Piper, Contrib. U.S. Natl. Herb. 10: 27. 1906.

Festuca brachyphylla Schult. and Schult. f. f. flavida Polunin, Bull. Natl. Mus. Canada 94 (Biol. Ser. 24): 90. 1940. Type: Canada. Nunavut: Baffin Island, Lake Harbour, 25–26 Aug. 1927, M.O. Malte s.n., Holotype: CAN! Isotype: GH!.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 5–35(–55) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems absent. Aerial stems erect. Leaves mainly basal (bluish green, sometimes with a purple tinge, to pale yellow-green (f. flavida Polunin); alternate; marcescent. Prophylls 8–15 mm long; with smooth veins (glabrescent); lacking pronounced keels (but the veins are prominent). Petioles absent. Sheaths present; with the margins fused only in the lower part (at least half their length when young, decaying into fibres); glabrous, or with trichomes; scabrous (minutely scaberulous if so); sheath collars present. Ligules present; 0.1–0.3 mm long; membranous; hairy (ciliate at the apex). Ligule apices truncate (and higher on sides than middle); entire, or cleft. Leaves grass-like. Blades 20–100(–200) mm long, 0.3–1 mm wide (when folded), appressed to the stem or spreading, folded in bud, linear, without auricles (sometimes with an erect swelling at the auricle position), folded (tightly, margins overlapping, with the longer leaves appearing fine when compared to other arctic grasses), veins parallel, midvein similar in size to other veins in the leaf. Blade adaxial surface hairy (or sparsely scaberulous). Blade abaxial surface glabrous (with a few sparse trichomes towards the apex).

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), or becoming exposed; culm nodes number visible 0–1. Flag leaf sheaths not inflated (flag leaf blades varying 2 mm long 0.6–1.7 mm wide and (F. hyperborea-like) to 15 mm long, sometimes on the same plant). Inflorescences paniculate (often spike-like; culms usually two to three times longer than the basal leaves; sometimes sparsely scabrous near the apex); dense; linear; 1.5–4(–5) cm long; 5–7(–10) mm wide. Inflorescences main axis scabrous (scaberulous). Number of inflorescence branches at lowest node 1 (usually). Inflorescence primary branches 1–9 mm long; scabrous (scaberulous); with appressed secondary branches. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; lanceolate; 4–8.5 mm long; 1.5–3 mm wide. Florets per spikelet 2–4(–6). Two glumes present. First glume 0.7–0.8 × the length of the second glume; 0.4–0.5 × spikelet length; 1.2–3.3 mm long (0.2–0.5 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; (2.4–)2.9–4.6 mm long (0.3–0.9 mm wide). Second glume lanceolate. Second glume glabrous; veins 3. Rachilla not pronounced between the florets; extending beyond the uppermost floret; internode 0.6–1 mm long; internode hairy. Lemma lanceolate; 3–5.2 mm long; rounded on the back; surface dull; surface sparsely scabrous; veins 5; apex acuminate, or acute; apex entire, or erose; apex glabrous; awned. Awn arising from the tip. Awn 0.8–2.5 mm long. Palea well developed; (3.1–)3.7–5.6 mm long; veins scabrous. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic); bisexual. Perianth represented by lodicules. Sepals modified (but not a pappus). Stamens 3. Anthers (0.5–)0.7–1(–1.3) mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles 2. Placentation basal. Ovules per ovary 1. Fruit sessile; dry; a caryopsis; 2 mm long (apex glabrous); indehiscent. Seeds 1.

Chromosome information. 2n (6x) = 42. Holmen (1952, Greenland; 1964, Alaska, six counts); Bowden (1956, 1960a, Alaska, two counts); Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Mosquin in Savile (1964); Zhukova (1965a, eastern Chukotka; 1965b, Wrangel Island); Mosquin and Hayley (1966, northern Canada); Löve and Löve (1966b, northern USA); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1972, northeastern Asia, 1975, 1976, 1980, western Chukotka); Zhukova et al. (1973, 1977, northeastern Asia); Zhukova and Tikhonova (1973, northeastern Asia); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska); Sokolovskaya and Probatova in Tzvelev (1976, northeastern Asia); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1978, eastern Chukotka); Frederiksen (1981, Greenland); Löve (1981b, northern Canada); Alexeev et al. (1987a, Russia, Siberia); Wade (1986); Aiken et al. (1995b, Canada); Guldahl (1999, Svalbard); Guldahl et al. (2001, Svalbard, three sites).

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 specimen at DAO was re-examined by Aiken in 1994 and annotated as F. hyperborea.).

Ploidy levels recorded 6x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. An early coloniser of dry, often sandy, usually slightly acidic conditions. Reddish plants are indicative of added nitrogen in the environment, either from the influence of humans or animals, as observed around beaches, fox dens, or owl perches.

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: along streams, river terraces, tundra (occasionally Salix barrens), slopes, ridges (raised rims of polygons or moraines), seashores; imperfectly drained moist areas, solifluction slopes (rarely), dry, moderately well-drained areas; rocks, gravel, sand (sometimes coarse), silt, clay (wet, calcareous); with high organic content (occasionally); acidic, or calcareous (slightly), or nitrophilous (found around fox dens and owl perches, and at landing sites on beaches). Very commonly on sand and dry gravel, in river beds or along the banks. This species has been found in wet meadows on Ellesmere Island, and specimens from such habitats often have small trichomes on culms and leaves.

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread. Common. Arctic, alpine. Arctic islands: Baffin, Devon, Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Parry islands (Emerald, Melville), Banks, Victoria, Somerset, King William, Southampton, Coats (Air Force, Digges, Resolution Islands, Melville and Simpson peninsulas).

Northern hemisphere distribution. Circumpolar, or circumboreal (with a gap in northern Europe). 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, Ellesmere Land – Peary Land, West Greenland, East Greenland.

General notes. A phenotypically plastic, hexaploid species, this is the most widespread Festuca in the Arctic islands (Aiken et al. 1993, 1995b).

Aiken et al. (1993) used variation in isozyme patterns to assess species boundaries in North American arctic and alpine representatives of the F. brachyphylla - (F. ovina) complex. They found that isozyme profiles, in combination with chromosome numbers, delimited four discrete entities with the complex: F. brevissima Jurtzev (diploid); F. aggr. auriculata Drobov (diploid, neither occur on the Arctic islands); F. baffinensis Polunin (tetraploid); and F. brachyphylla (hexaploid). Some alleles observed in the polyploid taxa were not detected among the diploids, and some observed in F. brachyphylla, the hexaploid taxon, were not detected among the diploids. They suggested that one possible explanation for these occurrences is that the North America polyploids originated in Eurasia where there are many other potential diploid and tetraploid progenitors.

Guldahl et al. (2001) studied the Festuca brachyphylla complex in Svalbard, considering chromosome counts, enzymatic, and ecological variation. In a revision of herbarium material she found that F. edlundiae was the most widely distributed species, followed by F. baffinensis. Festuca brachyphylla seemed to be restricted to the favourable fjord areas on central Spitsbergen, whereas F. hyperborea was rare. Chromosome counts were made on several populations of each of the Svalbard species. Three were tetraploid, F. baffinensis, F. edlundiae, and F. hyperborea, and one was hexaploid, F. brachyphylla. Festuca ovina from northern Norway was electrophoretically close to the F. brachyphylla complex in Svalbard. Festuca brachyphylla, F. edlundiae, and F. hyperborea all had an electrophoretically stronger affinity to F. ovina than to F. baffinensis, strengthening the impression that the complex may be an artificial taxonomic group. The close affinities between F. ovina, and at least three of the species of the F. brachyphlla complex suggested that they have at least one genome in common. Possible parental species may be found in the Beringina area, where the F. brachyphylla and F. ovina complexes probably have a long history of contact, and where diploids (i.e., F. brevissima and F. lenensis) from both complexes are reported.

Fjellheim et al. (2001) evaluated morphological and RAPD DNA variation in members of the Festuca brachyphylla complex occurring on Svalbard. The overall level of genetical variation within the complex was low. In each of F. baffinensis and F. hyperborea a single phenotype was observed in all except one, and in F. edlundiae, 12 RAPD phenotypes were observed. These three taxa appeared to be related. Festuca baffinensis was the most distinct taxon.

The tetraploid chromosome counts from Russia (Sokolovskaya and Probatova, in Tzvelev 1976) refer to F. edlundiae (vouchers in LE investigated). Only hexaploid counts are known from verified vouchers of this species (Aiken and Elven, working in LE, 1998, unpublished).

Illustrations. • Habitat: Dorset. Isolated plant growing in the shelter and additional moisture among the rocks on otherwise dry, exposed tundra. Nunvavut, Baffin Island, Cape Dorset. 3 August, 2005. Aiken. No voucher. • Colour forms. Plants showing adjacent different height forms, as well as different colour morphs of pale or purple inflorescences. Nunavut, Cormack Inlet, off Frobisher Bay. Several collections documenting this were made in September, 1989 by Aiken and deposited at CAN. • Height forms. Plants collected to show the range of height forms found at a beach. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Cormack Inlet. September, 1989. Aiken. CAN. • Brunette colour form. Plants with deep purple inflorescences. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, near causeway. September, 1989. • Redhead colour form. Plants with conspicuously red inflorescences. When transplanted this colour did not persist. It is suspected that it was induced by anthropogenic influences at the collection site. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit, near Causeway. CAN. • Lectotype specimen. Erect plants with shedding spikelets. Aspects of the spikelets are similar to Festuca edlundiae also found on Melville Island, but the erect stature of the plants is more typical of F. brachyphylla. Melville Island. 1819–1820. Mr. Edwards on W.E. Parry expedition. (Lectotype: BM, selected by Frederiksen, 1982). • Isotype specimen var. flavida. The albino form of this species has been named Festuca brachyphylla var. flavida. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Kimmirut. 25–26 August, 1927. M.O. Malte 643 (Isotype: GH). • 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.