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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Shortleaf Fescue - Festuca brachyphylla

Status Under Review
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SU

Agency Status


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General Description
Bunch grasses mostly 8-35 cm tall. Culms erect, sometimes sparsely scabrous or puberulent near the inflorescence. Leaf sheaths closed about halfway, sometimes scabrous, sometimes slowly shedding into fibers; collars glabrous; ligules 0.1-0.4 mm long; blades less than 1.2 mm wide, conduplicate. Inflorescences 1.5-5.5 cm long, contracted, paniculate or rarely racemose, branches 1-2 per node; branches usually erect or sometimes spreading at anthesis, the lower with 2 or more spikelets. Spikelets 3.5-7(-8.5) mm long; florets 2-4(6). Lower glumes mostly 1.8-3.5 mm long; upper glumes mostly 2.4-4 mm long; lemmas 2.5-4.5(-6) mm long, scabrous towards tip, awns mostly 1-3.5 mm long; anthers mostly 0.7-1.1 mm; ovary apex glabrous (adapted from: Darbyshire & Pavlick, 2012, Flora N. America, Vol. 24).

Lavin (2012) includes this species in synonymy of Festuca idahoensis. Kartesz (in prep. 2012) recognizes subspecies brachyphylla and coloradensis Frederiksen, the latter being restricted to Gallatin, Park, Sweetgrass and Stillwater counties.

Range Comments
AK and much of Canda south to CA and NM, south farther east into MN and scarcely VT and ME (Kartesz in prep. 2012).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 58

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Mountainous, often alpine.

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Aho, Ken Andrew. 2006. Alpine and Cliff Ecosystems in the North-Central Rocky Mountains. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 343 p.
    • Culver, D.R. 1994. Floristic analysis of the Centennial Region, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 199 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
    • Williams, K.L. 2012. Classification of the grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, forests and alpine vegetation associations of the Custer National Forest portion of the Beartooth Mountains in southcentral Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 376 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Shortleaf Fescue — Festuca brachyphylla.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from