Pictured above: Festuca subverticillata

This genus is characterized by many-flowered spikelets, rounded on the back, with unequal, acute glumes that are shorter than the first lemma. Lemmas are usually awned in our species and the awn is terminal. Leaves are often very thin or even involute in our species.

There are 7 species in MN; 3 are native.

Common species:
Festuca subverticillata (fess two' kah sub ver tih sill lay' tah)

  • Synonyms: Festuca obtusa
  • Common names: nodding fescue
  • Origin and habitat: Native; moist, rich wooded habitats
  • Identifying characters: A tall perennial with clustered stems, broad leaves, and tiny ligules (less than 1 mm). Inflorescences are panicles with scattered spikelets, mostly with 2-4 florets each. The branches are sharply 3-angled. Lemmas are acute and awnless (unusual for the genus).
  • Comments: One of the earlier (early summer) grasses to flower. It has been suggested that this may have been used for grain by pioneers and Indians (W.G. Dore and J. McNeill, 1980, Grasses of Ontario, Monograph 26, Research Branch Agriculture Canada). A close relative, blue fescue (Festuca ovina), is often planted as a color accent in gardens; producing a small dense mound of bluish foliage with a hedgehog-like appearance.


Festuca Map

Additional species in Minnesota:
F. brachyphylla
F. elatior
F. ovina
F. pratensis
F. rubra
F. trachyphylla

Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.