Festuca prolifera (Piper) Fern.

proliferous 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

Proliferous fescue is a rare alpine species found only in Maine and New Hampshire, where it forms mats on cliffs, seeps and in ravines. Its spikelets can produce vegetative plantlets directly on the mother plant, and the species uses this unusual form of reproduction more commonly than producing seeds.

Habitat

Alpine or subalpine zones, cliffs, balds, or ledges, talus and rocky slopes

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
Leaf blade width
0.3–1 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
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 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
Leaf ligule length
0.1–0.6 mm
Anther length
At least 0 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    At least 0 mm
    Anther number
    0–3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has no awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume awn length
    0 mm
    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 orientation
    • the inflorescence axis is arched or curved outward
    • the inflorescence axis is straight
    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
    1–2
    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
    30–120 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
    Lemma awn coiled
    NA
    Lemma awn length
    0 mm
    Lemma awn number
    the lemma has no awn
    Lemma awn orientation
    NA
    Lemma base hair length
    0 mm
    Lemma base hairs
    the lemma is hairless or feels just a tiny bit rough at the base
    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 stay roughly parallel throughout
    Lower glume length
    2.5–5.5 mm
    Lower glume relative length
    • the lower glume is nearly as long, or as long as, the upper glume
    • 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
    At least 0 mm
    Palea relative length
    • palea is less than one half as long as lemma or absent
    • 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 number per node
    Up to 0
    Spikelet pedicel
    the spikelets have pedicels
    Spikelet shape
    the spikelets are lanceolate (lance-shaped, widest below the middle and tapering narrowly to the ends) in profile
    Spikelets per panicle branch
    0–3
    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
    3.5–6.5 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
  • Growth form
    Horizontal rooting stem
    yes
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
  • 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
    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 hairless, but it may have tiny prickles that give it a sand-papery feel
    • the leaf blade is hairy
    Leaf blade texture
    • the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    • the leaf blade is smooth, or it may have soft hairs
    Leaf blade width
    0.3–1 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    0.1–0.6 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 reddish-brown and disintegrate or become shredded 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
    Leaf sheath hairs
    there are 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
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Maine
    • New Hampshire
    Specific habitat
    • alpine or subalpine zones
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • talus or rocky slopes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Plant height
    10–41 cm
    Roots at lower stem nodes
    • no
    • yes
    Stem hairs
    • the stem has hairs on it
    • the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    • the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts
    • the stems grow singly or a few together (they may form diffuse colonies)

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

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

Conservation Status

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

Maine
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
New Hampshire
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Agrostis mertensii:
leaves with blades 0.5-3 mm wide and ligules 0.7-3.3 mm long, and lowest lemma of spikelet awned (vs. F. prolifera, with leaves with blades mostly 0.3-0.8 mm wide and ligules mostly 0.1-0.4 mm long, and lowest lemma of spikelet unawned).
Poa bulbosa:
leaves with blades 1-2.5 mm wide and ligules 1-3 mm long, and anthers functional, 1.2-1.5 mm long (vs. F. prolifera, with leaves with blades mostly 0.3-0.8 mm wide and ligules mostly 0.1-0.4 mm long, and anthers usually non-functional, mostly 1.5-2.3 mm long when present).

Synonyms

  • Festuca rubra L. var. prolifera (Piper) Piper

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Festuca

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

4.  Festuca prolifera (Piper) Fern. NC

proliferous fescue. Festuca rubra L. var. prolifera (Piper) Piper • ME, NH. Alpine cliffs, seeps, 
and ravines.