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California's Native Grasslands

Festuca rubra, Red Fescue

Festuca rubra (Red Fescue). Red fescue is a medium sized, loosely tufted, fine-leafed grass that spreads with underground rhizomes. Red fescue is native to California despite the many forms of red fescue that have been introduced to California as a turf seed. Red fescue is native along the coast as far south as Big Sur and is found in fertile valleys and moist meadows in the coastal mountain ranges and the higher mountains of the state. Pure colonies of low blue and green forms of red fescue inhabit the north coast terraces of Mendocino and Sonoma County giving rise to several unique cultivars (Patrick’s Point, Jug Handle, Point Arena) propagated by cuttings. A hardy blue form from Point Richmond’s Potrero Hills, called Molate Fescue, is a very attractive ornamental grass that is aesthetically pleasing whether mown or not. Its fine foliage and spreading character make it ideally suited to natural landscapes and low-maintenance buffer areas. Molate fescue can handle more heat and summer drought than the typical introduced turf varieties of red fescue, and is the most winter active red fescue available in the world. Molate fescue takes on a more intense waxy blue color as a response to drought and thrives with little summer irrigation. Generally red fescue does not thrive in the full sun and intense heat of the Central Valley but will do well with partial shade and some summer irrigation. However, the Molate Fescue form is proving itself in the Central Valley with irrigation.

- David Amme, 2004, from Notes on California Grasses from A to V

Festuca rubra, Hitchcock, rev A. Chase, 1950. 

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