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Sesleria albicans

Blue moor grass

Sesleria albicans (Hegi et al., 1977)


Perennial, forming small cushions, with rhizomes. Young shoots numerous, intravaginal.

Culms are 10-40 cm high, erect, stiff, highly grooved, smooth and glabrous, compressed beneath the panicle, bearing leaves only at the basal part, with glabrous nodes arranged on top of one another.

Leaf sheaths almost closed up to the apex, grooved, smooth and glabrous or the basal ones scabrous to tomentose; keeled at the apical part, the basal ones thin and long-lasting, covering the basal part of the culms as well as the young shoots.

Ligule is a fringe that is 0.2-0.5 mm long, lacerate, ciliated at the apical margin, membranous.

Leaf blades of the young shoots and the basal culm leaves are 10-25 cm long, 2.5-3 mm wide, flat or folded, equal width all over, apex round or acute; stiff, green, glabrous, not rimy, midrib conspicuously prominent and whitish, with scabrous margins that have spiky hair; abaxially green and glossy, adaxially sea-green and dull; leaf blades of the uppermost culm leaf up to 1 cm long.

Inflorescence a panicle, 10-30 mm long, 4-10 mm wide, terete and often interrupted or oblong-ovate and dense, mostly glaucous or roan, also strawcoloured and coated purple. Basally with two bracts that are empty, scale-like, 2-3 mm long, broad, apically denticulate and ciliated. Lateral branches short, coming off the smooth and glabrous main axis solitarily; with one to three spikelets that are thick, smooth and glabrous like the (0.5-1 mm long) rachis.

Spikelets with two florets, 4.5-7 mm long.


This European species occurs in the foothills and the montane, subalpine and alpine zones. At higher (subalpine and alpine) altitudes it can often be found on rock or loose, stony ground as a pioneer plant.

The roots spread extensively in its environment because of a high dryness protection factor. Thus, the plants are able to grow in stepped meadows that are built up with Carex sempervirens. Blue moor grass grows on bare soil as well as on rendzina and pararendzina with a pH of 5.2-7.9.

The plant is an important pioneer on bare soil and on poor grasslands in the subalpine and alpine zone, especially for restoration on calcareous soils.



Fruit 4-6 mm long, 1-1.4 mm wide and 0.8-1.2 mm thick; acute-ovoid.

Lemma dorsally keeled, fading to several short peaks, covering the palea.

Palea as long as the lemma.

Surface dunnish to tawny, glossy.

Fruit 2-2.5 mm long, 1 mm wide and 0.8 mm thick, dunnish to auburn.

Thousand seed weight: 1.3-1.7 g.

(soil and climate)

Blue moor grass has no special soil requirements; however, there should be a good supply of bases and calcium.

Moist, cold soils and sites that tend towards deep dehydration in summer should be avoided.

It is important to select sites with a low weed content, because of restrictions on the chemical weed control of grasses. Thus, locations infested in particular with Agropyron repens, Poa annua, Poa trivialis and Digitaria sanguinalis should be avoided at all costs.


Although the seeds of blue moor grass are quite large, the species requires a great deal of soil preparation. A fine, crumbly seedbed without stones is a precondition, with seed depths of 0.5 cm at most, as well as a sufficient compact topsoil.

Open sowing should be carried out by the beginning of May at the latest, in order to guarantee satisfactory yields in the first harvesting year. In line with the latest research, until spring of the first harvesting year single plants have to grow to a thicket diameter of at least 10 cm to obtain sufficient fertility.

Using a cover crop is possible. As regards sufficient development, only linseed (oil flax) should be used.

Seed rate: 14-16 kg/ha. Because of the large seeds there are no problems with the known sowing technique.

Row spacing: 12-25 cm. Depending on the construction of the seeder and the method of weed control, there should be either dense populations or sufficient row spacing (for mechanical and/or chemical weed control).


Phosphorus and potassium: blue moor grass prefers nutrient-deficient soils. On soils with an intermediate phosphorus and potassium supply, additional fertilization is not necessary. There is no risk attached to the application of little fertilization-liquid or solid manure-even in autumn.

Nitrogen: should also be used economically. However, fertilization with nitrogen in autumn (30-40 kg/ha N, depending on the climate) provides a good seed crop. Fertilization in spring is too risky because of the early development of the seedlings.


This species has a slow juvenile development. Therefore, intense maintenance and weed control should take place soon after the harvest of the cover crop.

Mechanical methods of weed control (hoeing, brushing) are only helpful between rows.

Hormone-type and broad-spectrum herbicides against dicotyledonous weeds are tolerated well but should generally not be used until the species reaches the three leaf stage.

It should be remembered that the herbicides mentioned in the Table 3 are not registered for use in seed cultivation in some countries.

Rust diseases: ecotypes from higher altitudes in particular are highly sensitive. Continuous monitoring and where climate permits, prophylactic spraying with a suitable fungicide are advisable. However, cutting should be avoided in the first year in order to achieve sufficient development of the juvenile plants.

Ergot infections can occur temporarily, especially in the second half of the vegetation period.


Resistance to lodging: high.

Shattering tendency: intermediate.

Ripeness: determination of the optimal harvest time is very difficult. Within a panicle the ripeness is relatively equal, but the emergence of the panicles takes place during the whole vegetation period.

Threshing is recommended at the earliest possible opportunity. A second harvest in the same year is possible in theory but not practical because of ergot infections.

Ripening period: extremely early in the year, between the end of May and the beginning of June.

Harvesting technique: the board of the combine harvester should be kept low; apart from this consideration, threshing is unproblematic. The seeds have an excellent seed flow and can be cleaned easily.

Crop yields: cultivation already carried out - under organic farming conditions - only produced low crop yields up to 35 kg/ha. On small plots with potted plants that had been planted out, noticeably more than 100 kg/ha was harvested. Consequently, a potential crop yield of about 200 kg/ha should be possible.

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