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Dune Fescue

Vulpia fasciculata

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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, 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, Red 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
Beaches, sand dunes, seaside.

Brown, no petals
Flowers appear in dense, erect, branched, terminal clusters (panicles), up to 12cm long. Spikelets are solitary and each have 2 very long awns, up to 1.2cm.
The fruit is a caryopsis which is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
An annual grass species with smooth, hairless, linear leaves and ribbed stems.
Other Names:
Cluster Fescue, Tufted Fescue.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


There are a few species of fescue grass that can be found on dunes, such as Festuca maritima (Sea Fescue) and Festuca rubra subsp. arenaria (Sand Dune Fescue).

Festuca maritima is a perennial species of grass that is commonly found on coastal dunes in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It is a hardy grass that can tolerate salt spray, high winds, and sand dune conditions. It typically grows to a height of 20-50 cm and has a fine, delicate leaf blade that is blue-green in color. The species is generally considered to be a valuable component of coastal dune habitats because it helps to stabilize the dunes and protect them from erosion.

Festuca rubra subsp. arenaria, also known as Sand Dune Fescue, is a clump-forming perennial grass, with a tufted habit, which is able to fix itself to the sand with its extensive root system. It forms tussocks and can be found in many varieties of sand dune habitat, ranging from dry sand to fixed dunes, and wet maritime dune habitats. it is a valuable component of coastal dune habitats, like Festuca maritima, helps to stabilize the dunes and protect them from erosion.

Both species are low-growing and are well-adapted to growing in sandy soils with limited water and nutrient availability. They can be valuable component of coastal habitats and can have important conservation roles, also both can be used for landscaping and erosion control purpose.


Vulpia fasciculata, commonly known as tufted fescue or cluster fescue, is a cool-season grass species native to western North America. This grass species is often found in prairies, savannas, and open woodlands, and is a valuable component of native grasslands and restoration projects. In this blog, we will take a closer look at Vulpia fasciculata, its characteristics, and its ecological importance.

Physical Characteristics

Vulpia fasciculata is a tufted perennial grass species that can grow up to 2 feet tall. The grass blades are slender and have a fine texture, ranging in color from green to bluish-green. The grass produces spikelets that are clustered together in a panicle at the top of the stem. The spikelets are small and have a distinctive shape, with two to four flowers attached to a short stem.

Ecological Importance

Vulpia fasciculata is an important species for ecological restoration projects and the restoration of degraded habitats. This grass species is known for its ability to adapt to different soil types, moisture levels, and climatic conditions, making it a hardy and resilient plant. Vulpia fasciculata is also known to provide habitat and food for various wildlife species, including birds and small mammals.

In addition, Vulpia fasciculata plays an important role in soil conservation and erosion control. The grass has a deep root system that helps stabilize soils, preventing erosion and loss of topsoil. This is particularly important in areas that have experienced disturbance or damage, such as wildfires or landslides.

Conservation Status

While Vulpia fasciculata is not currently listed as a threatened or endangered species, its populations have declined in some areas due to habitat loss and degradation. As a result, this grass species is protected in some states, such as California, where it is classified as a Species of Special Concern.

Vulpia fasciculata is an important grass species that plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and resilience of natural ecosystems. Its adaptability, hardiness, and ecological functions make it a valuable component of ecological restoration projects and conservation efforts. As we continue to learn more about the importance of native plant species, it is essential that we continue to protect and conserve species like Vulpia fasciculata for the benefit of future generations.

More Information

Vulpia fasciculata is known to be a drought-tolerant grass species, making it particularly valuable in regions that experience dry or arid conditions. It is also able to tolerate a range of soil types, from sandy to clay soils, and is known to thrive in disturbed or degraded habitats. In fact, Vulpia fasciculata is often one of the first species to colonize disturbed areas, making it an important pioneer plant species.

In terms of its use in restoration projects, Vulpia fasciculata is often included in seed mixes and used to stabilize soils and prevent erosion. It is also used to restore prairies, savannas, and other native grassland habitats, where it can help improve ecosystem function and support a diversity of wildlife species.

While Vulpia fasciculata is primarily used for ecological restoration, it can also be used for livestock forage. The grass is considered to be of moderate to high forage quality and is able to provide valuable nutrition for grazing animals. However, it is important to carefully manage grazing in areas where Vulpia fasciculata is present, to avoid overgrazing and damage to the plant community.

In terms of its distribution, Vulpia fasciculata is found throughout western North America, from Alaska to Mexico. It is particularly common in California, where it is an important component of many native grassland habitats. In other regions, such as the Pacific Northwest and the Great Basin, Vulpia fasciculata is less common but can still be found in a range of habitats.

One interesting feature of Vulpia fasciculata is its ability to self-pollinate. This means that it can reproduce on its own without the need for external pollinators. Self-pollination can be an advantage for species that live in isolated or disturbed habitats where pollinators may be scarce or absent. However, self-pollination can also reduce genetic diversity, which may have implications for the long-term health and viability of plant populations.

In addition to its ecological functions, Vulpia fasciculata has cultural and historical significance for some Indigenous communities. For example, the Konkow Maidu people of California traditionally used Vulpia fasciculata for basket weaving and as a food source. The seeds were roasted and ground into flour, which was used to make bread and other foods.

Overall, Vulpia fasciculata is an important and adaptable grass species that provides a range of ecological, cultural, and economic benefits. Its resilience and hardiness make it a valuable component of restoration and conservation efforts, and its cultural significance highlights the important relationship between humans and the natural world. As we continue to prioritize the protection and restoration of native grassland habitats, it is important to recognize the important role that species like Vulpia fasciculata play in maintaining the health and resilience of these ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map