Festuca ovina L.

sheep fescue

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Sheep fescue is an exotic turfgrass that was once widely planted because of its drought-tolerance and ability to grow in difficult conditions due to its association with mycorrhizae. Its delicate, bluish-green leaves, arise from dense tufts, and the 'glauca' cultivar is an attractive garden plant. Sheep fescue is a host plant for several species of butterfly in Europe and north Africa; its relationships with North American butterflies and moths are less well known.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats)

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
0.3–1.2 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
4–7.3 mm
Glume relative length
neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
Awn on glume
the glume has no awn
One or more florets
there is more than one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0.5–2 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
  • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
  • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
0.2–0.3 mm
Anther length
1.8–2.5 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    1.8–2.5 mm
    Anther number
    3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has no awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    3–8
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume awn length
    0 mm
    Glume keel
    • the glume keels are rough or hairy
    • the glume keels are smooth and hairless
    Glume relative length
    neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
    Glume shape
    the glume is V-shaped in cross-section
    Glume veins
    • 1
    • 3
    Glumes per spikelet
    2
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the spikelets are uniform
    Inflorescence axis hairs
    • the inflorescence axis is hairy but not rough or sand-papery feeling
    • the inflorescence axis is rough and feels like sand-paper
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    • the inflorescence axis is arched or curved outward
    • the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branch length
    1–3 cm
    Inflorescence branch roughness
    the inflorescence branches are somewhat to very rough
    Inflorescence branches
    the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
    Inflorescence branches coming off the lowest stem node
    1
    Inflorescence crowding
    • the panicle is somewhat to very congested (crowded), and the branches may not be clearly seen without close inspection
    • the panicle is somewhat to very spread out, with clearly-evident branches
    Inflorescence length
    20–120 mm
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the spikelets are borne on stalks or on branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence is branched, and the branches do NOT both grow from the same side of the plant AND look like spikes
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    • NA
    • the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn coiled
    the lemma awn is straight or twisted, but not coiled one half turn
    Lemma awn length
    0.5–2 mm
    Lemma awn number
    • the lemma has no awn
    • the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    • NA
    • the awn of the lemma is straight
    Lemma base hair length
    0 mm
    Lemma base hairs
    the lemma is hairless or feels just a tiny bit rough at the base
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    • the lemma has fine hairs between the veins
    • the lemma is hairless between the veins
    Lemma keel hairs
    NA
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma tip
    the lemma tip is a simple point, with or without an awn (long narrow extension ending in a point)
    Lemma tip shape
    • the lemma tip tapers to a long narrow point (it may or may not also have an awn or teeth at the tip)
    • the lemma tip tapers to a narrow point (it may or may not also have an awn or teeth at the tip)
    Lemma vein number
    • 1
    • 5
    Lemma vein orientation
    the veins on the lemma come together near the tip
    Lower glume length
    1–3 mm
    Lower glume relative length
    the lower glume is one third to three quarters as long as the upper glume
    One or more florets
    there is more than one floret per spikelet
    Palea length
    2.5–5.3 mm
    Palea relative length
    palea is one half to fully as long as lemma
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers on the plant have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is no extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet disintegration
    the spikelet breaks off above the glumes, so that after the florets fall off, the glumes remain
    Spikelet length
    4–7.3 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    Up to 0
    Spikelet pedicel
    the spikelets have pedicels
    Spikelet position
    the spikelets emerge from both the upper and lower halves of the inflorescence branches
    Spikelet shape
    • the spikelets are elliptic (widest in the middle, tapering to the ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are lanceolate (lance-shaped, widest below the middle and tapering narrowly to the ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are oblong (rectangular, but with rounded ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are obovate (egg-shaped but with the widest point above the middle) in profile
    Spikelet width
    2–3 mm
    Spikelets per panicle branch
    1–5
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Tip of glume
    the tip of the glume is not divided (though it may have an awn on it)
    Upper glume length
    2.2–4.6 mm
    Upper glume relative length
    the upper glume is more than one half as long as the lowest lemma
    Upper glume shape
    the upper glume is widest at or below the middle
  • Fruits or seeds
    Groove on seed
    the caryopsis has a groove running most of its length
    Seed length
    2–3 mm
  • Growth form
    Horizontal rooting stem
    no
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizomes
    no
    Roots
    there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Basal leaves
    the plant has large or prominent tufts of leaves at the base of the flowering stem
    Leaf auricles
    • the leaves do not have auricles
    • the leaves have auricles
    Leaf basal lobe hairy
    • NA
    • the lobes at the base of the leaf blades are hairless
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf is tapered gradually to the base
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is clearly folded or rolled inwards
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade is hairy
    Leaf blade length
    3–30 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    Leaf blade width
    0.3–1.2 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    0.2–0.3 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane with fine hairs
    Leaf margin glands
    there are no glands along the edges of the leaf blade
    Leaf sheath closed around stem
    the margins of the leaf sheath are fused together and form a closed tube except (possibly) at the very top
    Leaf sheath color and persistence
    the leaf sheathes are off-white to light-brown and mostly persist in older leaves
    Leaf sheath hair type
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Orientation of topmost leaf
    the flag leaf is held upright, or at less than a 45 degree angle out from the stem
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    man-made or disturbed habitats
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    10–70 cm
    Roots at lower stem nodes
    no
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem node number
    1
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Maine
not applicable (S-rank: SNA)
Massachusetts
not applicable (S-rank: SNA)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Festuca filiformis:
lemmas awnless or with a tiny mucro up to 0.4 mm long and leaf blades of vegetative shoots with 1 rib (vs. F. ovina, with lemmas with awns 0.5-2.5 mm long and leaf blades of vegetative shoots with 1-3 obscure ribs).
Festuca trachyphylla:
anthers 2.3-3.4 mm long and leaf blades mostly 0.8-1.2 mm wide, with 4-7 ribs (vs. F. ovina, with anthers mostly 2-2.5 mm long and leaf blades mostly 0.3-0.7 mm wide, with 1-3 obscure ribs).

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Festuca

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

3.  Festuca ovina L. E

sheep fescue. CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Lawns, fields, roadsides, seeded areas. Festuca ovina was used introduced as a turf grass, but it not widely used anymore.