Panarctic Flora


342202 Festuca rubra L.


2n= (1) 42 (6x). - Northern Hemisphere throughout. - Very numerous counts.
(4) 49 (7x). - Alaska. - Hedberg (1967), see below.
(5) 56 (8x). - Europe (Hungary). - Pólya (1948).
Hedberg (1967) stated his heptaploid plant to have good seed and apparently good pollen but presumed it to be agamospermous. We are not aware of reports of agamospermy in this genus.
Not included: All levels from diploids to decaploids have been reported from this species. The reports of other levels than 6x and 8x may be based on misidentified plants, some perhaps also on other subspecies than the ones that reach the Arctic.

Geography: Circumboreal-polar.

Notes: Festuca rubra and its close relatives are an unusually complicated group. Markgraf-Dannenberg (1980, in Flora Europaea) accepted about 14 species for Europe and within F. rubra s. str. seven subspecies. Soreng et al. (2003) accepted at least eleven subspecies of F. rubra for North America, whereas Darbyshire and Pavlick (2007) accepted ten subspecies. Three major groups can be recognized among the northern plants:

(1) The major group throughout the Arctic consists of comparatively uniform plants with short to long creeping rhizomes (i.e., not tussocky), a nearly flat and comparatively broad culm leaf and often also comparatively short and broad basal leaves, a dense panicle with comparatively few spikelets, lemmas mostly with dense, white, spreading hairs, and very short awns. Some plants may have glabrous or subglabrous lemmas but with the other characters mentioned. This group is predominantly arctic. Here belong the names "cryophila", "mutica", "richardsonii", and probably also "arctica". They refer to one taxon which we provisionally name subsp. richardsonii. The characters given by Markgraf-Dannenberg (1980) mostly hold true. For the possibly octoploid F. eriantha, see note to subsp. richardsonii below.

(2) Another and much more polymorphic group is mainly boreal (and temperate) and probably consists of several taxa. Some plants are rhizomatous, others much more tussocky. The culm leaf is mostly narrow and convolute as are the basal leaves, the lemmas vary from glabrous to hairy, and the awns are pronounced. These plants reach the Arctic both as native - at least in Fennoscandia, Svalbard, southern Greenland, southern Baffin Island, and Alaska - and as adventive. We follow Tzvelev (PAF proposal) and Soreng et al. and assign them collectively to subsp. rubra.

(3) A third group is present around the North Pacific and accepted by Soreng et al. (2003) and Darbyshire and Pavlick (2007) as subsp. aucta (V.I. Krecz. & Bobrov) Hultén, Fl. Aleut. Isl.: 97 (1937) [F. aucta V.I. Krecz. & Bobrov, Fl. URSS 2: 518, 767 (1934); holotype (LE): Russian Far East: the Commander Islands, Bering Island, 25. Aug. 1894, leg. N. Grebnitzky]. Hultén (1968a) gave its characters as culm leaf 2-3 mm broad (as in subsp. richardsonii), spikelets glaucous, and upper sheaths loose. He mapped subsp. aucta as southern and non-arctic in Alaska but as possibly present on the Chukchi Peninsula. Sekretareva (2004) did not include it for the arctic parts of Russia. We do not enter this race as arctic occurrence has not been confirmed.

There are plants here and there in the Arctic that do not fit into this scheme, partly as populations, but the variation is unexplored.

Higher Taxa