Dienstag, 1. Mai 2012

Plant of the Day (May 1st, 2012) - Festuca pratensis Hung.

Spring is not only the time of beautiful flowers but also the reawakening of the grasses. After their “hibernation”, the different grasses starts to grow and the time of mowing comes near. One of this typical garden-grasses is today's “Plant of the Day”: Festuca pratensis Huds. from the Poaceae family. In German, this species is known as “Wiesen-Schwingel” while English speaking people maybe know it as “Meadow fescue”.

F. pratensis - habitus

F. pratensis is a perennial grass, which can reach heights between 30 and 120 centimetres (11.8 to 51.8).
The stalk grows upright and is a little bit bent. It has also the typical nodes of the Poaceae. 
The dark-green leaves are until 10 centimetres long and 5 mm wide. They are completely bald and hang down limply. The leaf-blades are very smooth and have small auricles at their base. The ligula is very small (under 1 millimetre).
There are also basal-leaves, which have a different morphology. They are small, brown and fibrous.
The plant grows in loose eyries

F. pratensis- roots & basal leaves

The inflorescence is the typical double-racemes of the Poaceae with the strongly reduced internodes. F. pratensis belongs to the panicle-grasses, so the ears have long stalks and form a slightly overhanging panicle.
The actual ears are a little bit cylindrical. Each ear consists of 5 to 8 small flowers with lanceolate lemmas and very short glumes. In the most cases, the ears are green, but sometimes, they also have a reddish colour.
Flowering time is between June and July (I made these pictures last summer); the fruit is a one-seeded nut (“Karyopse” in Botany).

F. pratensis - pannicle from above

F. pratensis is native to Europe and the temperate regions of Asia, but can also be found today in America, Australia, New Zealand and South Asia as neophyte. It prefers fresh places and nutrient-rich soils (especially on lime). It grows from sea-level to an average height of 1500 metres (0 to 4921.3 feet).

F. pratensis - habitus

Because it's very insensitive to mechanical stress, F. pratensis is a popular grass for turfs and planted in many gardens all over the world. In fact, it's a characteristic species for nutrient-rich pastures. Another reason for popularity of F. pratensis is also its high value as forage grass.

Please note: It's not unusual for this species to interbreed with other species. A very common hybrid is x Festulolium ascendens A. & Graeb.; the result of an interbreeding between F. pratensis and Lolium perenne L., which I will show you in my next post.
In some cases the hybrid looks more like F. pratensis and in other cases more like L. perenne. Therefore, it's possible, that my pictures show this hybrid, but I cannot say surely.

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