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Festuca picturata

East alpine violet fescue

Festuca picturata (Kiffmann, 1978)


Perennial, forming quite dense mats (or cushions), with numerous, extravaginal young shoots and without stolons.

Culms are 25-45 cm high, mostly with soft hairs in the upper part, seldom completely glabrous.

Leaf sheaths of the young shoots almost completely connate, devoid of lateral auricles, smooth; the basal ones disintegrating into fibres.

Ligule collar-shaped, very short, glabrous.

Leaf blades of the young shoots 10-25 cm long, 0.5-0.75 mm wide, folded (seldom flat). Cross-section irregularly hexagonal, keeled, with five vascular bundles and adaxially three to five ribs and four grooves.

Inflorescence a panicle, 4-8 cm long, quite stiff, main axis and lateral branches softly pubescent.

Three to four flowered spikelets, 6.4-7.6 mm long, green, dark purple mottled.


In alpine to subalpine sites on pastures and meadows, on turf that is covered by snow for much of the year. On acidic (not on neutral or alkaline), nutrient-deficient soil with intermediate humus content. Indicates intermediate moisture, acid soil and light.

All-purpose grass for silicious sites, tolerant of nutrients but not dependent on them, tolerant of cutting.


Glumes dissimilar, membranous, glabrous, lower glume one-veined, 2.2-3.4 mm long; upper glume three-veined, 3.6-4.8 mm long, lanceolate, acuminate and pointed. Lemma five-veined, 4.3-4.7 mm long, lanceolate, glabrous, midvein scabrous in upper part, pointed, short-awned.

Awn 1-1.6 mm long.

Palea two-veined, as long as lemma.

Anther 2.3-2.8 mm long.

Ovary with scattered hair, seldom glabrous.

Fruit 2.6-3 mm long, elliptic or lanceolate outline, not connate with lemma and palea.

Thousand seed weight: 0.7-0.9 g.

Seeds (Blaschka, A.)

(soil and climate)

In seed production Festuca picturata has no special requirements. As for all fescues, moist or waterlogged soil, peat and light, dry soil and soils with high weed infestation should be avoided. Competition with weeds is low. Locations with annual meadow grass and rough meadow grass (Poa annua and Poa trivialis) should therefore be avoided. Seed production is unproblematic with a pH between 5 and 7.


Open sowing is possible if carried out until the end of June (or beginning of July in mild climates) at the latest. Irrigation must be available in case of late sowing. Because of the plant’s slow juvenile development and low competition, nurse crops in autumn are not recommended. Nurse crops in spring underneath summer cereals or linseed are unproblematic if the cover crop does not produce too much shade. The slow juvenile development means that seeding has to be done immediately after the seeding of the cover crop.

Seed depth: no more than 0.5 cm.

Seed rate: 8-10 kg/ha

Row spacing: 15-20 cm. Broadcast sowing is possible.


Festuca picturata has no special requirements. An intermediate supply of nutrients is sufficient for a satisfactory crop yield.

Phosphorus and potassium: for soil with intermediate phosphorus and potassium content, fertilization with stable manure (15-20 tonnes/ha) is sufficient. For mineral fertilization, the amounts should be between 40 and 60 kg/ha P2O5 and 80 to 100 kg/ha K2O.

Nitrogen: sufficient nitrogen in autumn guarantees satisfactory tillering. However, a surplus of nitrogen in late spring may decrease the development of spermatophores. The amount of nitrogen necessary for seed development is about 70 kg/ha N-total. This should be split and applied in autumn and early spring.


Generally the same guidelines as for all fescues apply. Festuca picturata has an extremely slow juvenile development and grows very low. Stands can become cespitous after the first harvest. If second and third harvests are planned, stands need to be thinned (see chewing’s fescue). This species is generally tolerant of herbicides. For application of hormonetype and broad-spectrum herbicides see Table 3.

The use of herbicides is necessary even for low weed infestation. Early application is important because high weed competition has a disproportionately high impact on the crop yield. As for all fescues, there is a wide range of grass herbicides that can be used for weed control (see Table 3).


Resistance to lodging: high, in wellmaintained populations with high crop yields, to intermediate.

Shattering tendency: low to intermediate.

Ripeness: culms and panicles change colour to greyish-brown to yellow-brown. Seeds shatter easily when touched.

Ripening period: usually shortly before chewing’s fescue, under average conditions in the second half of June.

Harvesting techniques: unproblematic as for all fescues. Swath threshing is possible, but should only be done in years with damp or uncertain weather. Seeds have a good seed flow and can be cleaned easily.

Crop yields: crop yields may be higher in the second harvest year. In practice a harvest is between 150 and 250 kg/ha. However, the yield potential is estimated to be higher.

Thanks to various weed controls, up to three harvesting years are possible.

Single plant (Keiblinger, S.)

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