Festuca rubra L. ssp. rubra

Locations ofFestuca rubra L. ssp. rubra in Virginia

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Detail

Family
Poaceae
Botanical Name
Festuca rubra L. ssp. rubra
Common Name
Red Fescue
Synonym(s)
Festuca rubra L.
Flora of Virginia Name/Status
Festuca rubra L. ssp. rubra
Comments
Interpretations of North American Festuca rubra in both older and recent literature are confusing and sometimes contradictory. It is a highly variable species representing both native and introduced genotypes. The recent treatment in FNA (Darbyshire and Pavik 2007) recognizes 12 subspecies, none of which are clearly native to the Mid-Atlantic region. They also say that "much more work on the taxonomy of the F. rubra complex is needed before the boundaries of individual taxa can be firmly established," and name several variants that "need attention" and don't clearly fit any of their subspecies. In Virginia, hundreds of cultivars of Eurasian material have been used as forage and lawn grasses, sometimes persisting and escaping into ruderal habitats. Yet, Festuca rubra sensu lato is also found in a remarkable assemblage of specialized, natural, and often remote habitats (see below) in both the Coastal Plain and mountains. It seems highly unlikely that F. rubra was introduced to these habitats (or most of them) from cultivated escapes. For the time being, we are following Weakley (2015) and the Flora of Virginia in provisionally treating our material as ssp. rubra until more clarity about the taxa in eastern North America and their current and presettlement distribution is achieved.
Habitat
Apparently native genotypes occur in interdune swales, salt scrub, secondary dune grasslands, and maritime hammock forests (within marshes) on the Eastern Shore barrier islands; mafic woodlands, outcrop barrens, mafic fens, and high-elevation bogs of the Blue Ridge; and calcareous sandstone barrens and high-elevation red oak forests in the Ridge and Valley. Populations elsewhere, occurring in fields, pastures, weedy clearings, and other open, disturbed habitats, almost certainly represent introductions. In our area, this species is considered to be partly native and partly introduced (see Comments). As a whole, it varies from very infrequent to locally common throughout.
Native Status
Native

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