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Festuca supina

Tufted fescue

Festuca supina (Kiffmann, 1978)


Perennial, forms small, green mats with high density, numerous intravaginal leaf sheaths, no rhizomes.

Culms are 10-20 mm high, slim, erect, grooved, underneath panicle scabrous or with short hairs.

Leaf sheaths of young shoots with margins connate in lower third or half, glabrous, heavily grooved, at aperture two lateral, small, rounded auricles.

Leaf blades of young shoots 3-10 cm long, 0.4-0.7 cm wide, limp, green, smooth, only apically slightly scabrous, cross-section folded, elliptic, heart - or Y-shaped, seven vascular bundles, adaxially one to three ribs with short, scattered hairs, two to four grooves.

Inflorescence a panicle, 2-6 cm long, oblong-ovate, contracted, dense, expanding only in flowering period, greyish-yellow, usually coated purple, lateral branches ramify individually from main axis; lateral branches and main axis angular and scabrous because of prickle hair.

Three to four flowered spikelets, 6-7 mm long, blue-green, coated purple, angular, scabrous, often modified to foliar shoots.


Tufted fescue is a central European montane plant found in the alpine and subalpine zone. It prefers arid, nutrientdeficient, acidic soil and therefore is a typical plant for alpine rough meadows, dry pastures and rock planes. In higher altitudes it supersedes mat grass (Nardus stricta). In the Alps, tufted fescue grows at altitudes up to 3 000 m.

All-purpose grass in dry and nutrientdeficient habitats in the subalpine and alpine zone. Can be used as a substitute for mat grass.


Fruit of the husk 2.5-3.5 mm long, 0.5-0.9 mm wide and thick, narrowly ovate acuminate, light brown to greyish-brown.

Awn short, up to 1 mm long.

Lemma not veined, reflected margins, involute. Keels in upper third shortly dentate, palea and lemma have the same length, palea in hollow, fruit darkly translucent.

Rachilla 0.8 mm long, broadened at the end.

Fruit strongly connate, 2 mm long, 0.5 mm wide and thick, dark auburn.

Thousand seed weight: 0.4--0.6 g.


(soil and climate)

In seed production tufted fescue has no special requirements. Moist or waterlogged soil, peat and light, dry soil and ground with high weed infestation should be avoided. Competition with weeds is low. Locations with a high presence of annual meadow grass and rough meadow grass (Poa annua and Poa trivialis) should be avoided. Seed production is unproblematic with a pH between 5 and 7.


Because of the small seed size it is important to have a well-prepared, flat, small crumbly seedbed. The plants do not grow very high and therefore the cutting bar of the harvester should be set rather low. This means that the ground must be free of stones.

Open sowing is possible if carried out until the end of June. However, best results are obtained using summer cereals as a cover crop. Because of the plant’s low tolerance to shade there should be a thin cover crop population.

Seed depth: no more than 0.5 cm.

Seed rate: 6-8 kg/ha.

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


Tufted fescue is very undemanding. Nutrient requirements for a satisfactory crop yield are intermediate.

Phosphorus and potassium: on soils with an intermediate supply of phosphorus and potassium, fertilization with manure in autumn is sufficient. For mineral fertilization, amounts should be 50-60 kg/ha P2O5 and 100 kg/ha K2O.

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


Generally the same guidelines as for all fescues apply. Tufted Fescue has a rather slow juvenile development and stands do not grow very high.

Populations can become cespitous after the first harvest. If a second or third harvest is planned, stands have to be thinned (see chewing’s fescue).

The species is quite tolerant of herbicides. For application of hormone-type 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).


Tendency to lodging: high, even for wellmaintained populations with high crop yields.

Shattering tendency: low to intermediate.

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

Ripening period: seeds ripen shortly before chewing’s fescue, under average conditions at the beginning of July.

Harvesting techniques: unproblematic as for all fescues. The cutter bar should be set very low because ripe stands are only 15-20 cm high. Swath threshing is possible, but should only be done in years with damp or uncertain weather. Experience shows that these plants do not tolerate low cutting. This can lead to damaged plant stands on large areas and decreased crop yields the following year. Seeds have a good seed flow and can be cleaned easily.

Crop yields: usually higher in the second harvest year. In practice a harvest is between 150 and 450 kg/ha.

Thanks to various weed controls, three harvests are possible.

Ripe plants ready for harvest

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