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Red Fescue

Festuca rubra

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple Small-reed, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Grassland, heathland, lawns, meadows, saltmarshes, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside, woodland.

Green, no petals
Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) produces slender, upright flower spikes that typically reach up to 60 cm in height. The flowers are arranged in a loose, branched inflorescence known as a panicle, which is typically 10-20 cm long. Each spikelet contains several florets that are small, delicate, and greenish to purplish in color. The florets have fine awns (bristle-like structures) and are surrounded by glumes (bracts) that taper to a point. Flowering usually occurs from late spring to early summer, contributing to the grass's fine, feathery appearance.
The fruit of Red Fescue is a small, dry caryopsis, commonly referred to as a grain. Each grain is enclosed within the remnants of the floral bracts, including the glumes and lemmas. The caryopsis is oblong and slightly compressed, typically measuring a few millimeters in length. It matures in late summer, turning from green to a light brown or tan color as it dries. The seeds are lightweight and can be dispersed by wind, aiding in the grass's propagation.
The leaves of Red Fescue are fine, narrow, and typically dark green in color, though they can sometimes have a bluish-green hue. They are typically rolled or folded in the bud and grow in tufts or dense clumps from the base of the plant. The leaf blades are usually hairless or sparsely hairy, with a rough texture on the upper surface due to small, stiff hairs. The edges of the leaves are often finely serrated or may have slightly rough margins. Red Fescue is known for its fine-textured foliage, which contributes to its ornamental value in lawns and meadows.
Red Fescue generally does not have a distinctive aroma. Unlike some plants known for their fragrant flowers or foliage, such as lavender or roses, Red Fescue is primarily appreciated for its ornamental value in landscapes rather than for any notable scent. The focus tends to be on its fine texture, drought tolerance, and ability to thrive in various environmental conditions rather than any olfactory characteristics.
Other Names:
Creeping Fescue Grass, Creeping Red Fescue, Red Fescue Grass.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Festuca rubra, also known as red fescue, is a species of grass in the genus Festuca. This grass is native to Europe, Asia, and North America and it is widely cultivated and naturalized in other parts of the world as an ornamental plant or forage grass.

Festuca rubra is a small to medium-sized, tufted grass that typically grows to be about 24 inches tall. The leaves are typically blue-green in color and are flat and blade-like. The leaf blade is smooth and glossy with a distinct midrib. It produces panicles of flowers, which are typically green or purplish in color, that are fairly insignificant.

This grass prefers well-drained soils and can tolerate a wide range of soil types and pH, and it is tolerant of drought and heat. It is also tolerant of light shade, but it grows best in full sun. It is often used in landscaping, and can be used as a groundcover or in turf, and it's also used as a forage grass, particularly for sheep.

This species is hardy in USDA zones 4-9, and it is relatively easy to grow if given suitable conditions. It is not considered as threatened species and it is commonly available commercially. Festuca rubra varieties are used for ornamental lawns, golf course fairways, and sports field turf. They are low-growing, fine-textured, and maintain their color well in heat and drought conditions.


Red fescue, scientifically known as Festuca rubra, is a cool-season grass species that belongs to the Poaceae family. It is a common grass species found in many parts of the world, especially in temperate regions, and is known for its fine texture and dense growth habit. Red fescue has many uses, from turfgrass to forage, and it is a popular choice for golf courses, sports fields, and residential lawns.

Red fescue is a perennial grass that typically grows to a height of 30-60 cm, with narrow, flat leaves that can grow up to 30 cm in length. The plant has a dense, fibrous root system that helps it to thrive in a variety of soil types, from sandy to heavy clay soils. Red fescue is a cool-season grass, meaning it grows best in spring and fall when temperatures are cooler, and can tolerate some shade.

One of the most attractive features of red fescue is its fine texture, which makes it an ideal grass species for use in golf courses and other fine turf applications. Red fescue is also known for its excellent drought tolerance and ability to adapt to a wide range of soil types and pH levels. It is a low-maintenance grass species that requires less water, fertilizer, and pesticides than other grass species, making it an environmentally friendly option.

Red fescue is commonly used in mixtures with other cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, to create a more diverse and resilient turf. It is also used as a forage crop for livestock, as it is highly palatable and has a high nutritional value. Additionally, red fescue has been used for soil erosion control, as its dense root system helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion.

Red fescue is native to Europe, but it has been widely introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, where it has become naturalized in many regions. The species is generally considered to be a valuable addition to the plant community, as it is well-adapted to a variety of environments and provides a range of ecological benefits.

Red fescue is commonly used in a variety of turfgrass applications, including residential and commercial lawns, parks, and sports fields. Its fine texture and ability to tolerate shade make it an ideal choice for areas where a high-quality turfgrass is desired. Red fescue is often used in mixtures with other cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, to create a more diverse and resilient turf.

In addition to its use in turfgrass applications, red fescue is also commonly used as a forage crop for livestock. It is highly palatable and has a high nutritional value, making it an excellent choice for grazing animals. Red fescue is often used in mixtures with other forage crops, such as white clover and alfalfa, to provide a more balanced and complete diet for livestock.

Red fescue is also valued for its soil stabilization properties. Its dense root system helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, making it a popular choice for re-vegetation of disturbed areas, such as roadsides and construction sites. Red fescue is often used in mixtures with other grasses and legumes to create a more diverse and resilient plant community that can provide long-term stabilization of soil and other environmental benefits.

Another benefit of red fescue is its ability to sequester carbon. As a perennial grass species, red fescue has a deep and extensive root system that can store carbon in the soil for many years. This makes it an important species for carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation efforts.

Despite its many benefits, red fescue is not without its challenges. It can be susceptible to a number of diseases and pests, including red thread, dollar spot, and chinch bugs. However, with proper management, including regular fertilization, irrigation, and pest control, red fescue can be a highly productive and valuable grass species.

Red fescue has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant contains a number of bioactive compounds, including alkaloids, flavonoids, and tannins, which have been shown to have a variety of pharmacological activities. Red fescue has been used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including arthritis, rheumatism, and skin disorders. However, more research is needed to fully understand the medicinal properties of red fescue and to develop effective treatments based on its bioactive compounds.

Red fescue is also a valuable species for biodiversity conservation. It provides habitat and food for a variety of insects and other animals, including bees, butterflies, and birds. The plant's ability to thrive in a variety of soil types and pH levels makes it a valuable component of natural ecosystems, and its use in restoration projects can help to improve the health and resilience of degraded or damaged ecosystems.

Finally, red fescue has cultural significance in many parts of the world. In Europe, it has long been used for thatching roofs, and it is still used today in some regions for this purpose. In North America, red fescue has become an important component of many traditional and modern landscape designs, adding a touch of natural beauty to parks, gardens, and other public spaces.

In conclusion, red fescue is a valuable and versatile grass species that has a wide range of uses and benefits. From turfgrass to forage, soil stabilization to carbon sequestration, and traditional medicine to biodiversity conservation, red fescue has much to offer. As such, it is likely to remain an important and valued species for many years to come.

30 Interesting Red Fescue Facts

Here are 30 interesting facts about Red Fescue (Festuca rubra):

  1. Red Fescue is a cool-season perennial grass native to Europe, Asia, and North America.
  2. It is commonly found in both natural and cultivated settings.
  3. The scientific name "Festuca rubra" translates to "red fescue," referencing its reddish-brown basal sheaths.
  4. It is known for its fine-textured foliage and ability to form dense tufts or mats.
  5. Red Fescue is valued for its tolerance of shade and drought conditions.
  6. It is often used in mixtures for lawns, especially in cooler climates.
  7. This grass species is also utilized for erosion control and habitat restoration projects.
  8. Red Fescue can be found in diverse habitats ranging from coastal areas to alpine meadows.
  9. It adapts well to various soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils.
  10. It is a common component of grass seed mixtures for golf courses and sports fields.
  11. Red Fescue is sometimes used as a forage grass for livestock, though it is not highly palatable compared to other grass species.
  12. The grass blades can vary in color from dark green to bluish-green, depending on environmental conditions.
  13. It produces small, inconspicuous flowers that are wind-pollinated.
  14. The seeds of Red Fescue are small and light, aiding in their dispersal by wind.
  15. It has a fibrous root system that helps prevent soil erosion.
  16. Red Fescue is resistant to many common lawn diseases.
  17. It can form extensive mats through its rhizomatous growth habit.
  18. This grass species is often used in reseeding projects for disturbed areas.
  19. Red Fescue is known to be relatively low-maintenance once established.
  20. It is tolerant of mowing and can be kept at a short height for lawns.
  21. In natural habitats, Red Fescue provides food and cover for wildlife such as birds and small mammals.
  22. It is a hardy grass that can survive harsh winters and hot summers in temperate regions.
  23. Red Fescue can also tolerate occasional flooding and saline soils near coastal areas.
  24. The grass blades have a slightly rough texture due to fine hairs.
  25. It is important in ecological restoration efforts to stabilize slopes and prevent soil erosion.
  26. Red Fescue has been used historically for thatching roofs in some regions.
  27. The grass is not typically invasive and coexists well with other plant species.
  28. In colder climates, Red Fescue retains its green color longer into the winter compared to warm-season grasses.
  29. It has been studied for its potential role in carbon sequestration in grassland ecosystems.
  30. Red Fescue exhibits genetic diversity across its native and introduced ranges, influencing its adaptation to local conditions.

These facts highlight the versatility, ecological significance, and practical uses of Red Fescue in various landscapes and ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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