Video: Identification Tips for Fine Fescues

By Aaron Patton and Ross Braun, Purdue University

The five fine fescues most commonly used in turfgrass systems include:

  1. Strong creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra L. ssp. rubra)
  2. Slender creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra L. ssp. littoralis)
  3. Chewings fescue (Festuca rubra L. ssp. commutata, synonym Festuca rubra L. ssp. fallax)
  4. Sheep fescue (Festuca ovina L., synonym Festuca ovina L. ssp. hirtula)
  5. Hard fescue (Festuca brevipila)

These five fescues are often grouped together and called “fine fescues” because of their similar appearance of fine (narrow or bristle) leaves, which means they are difficult to distinguish from one another visually. Scientists typically use a three-step approach for fine fescue identification, which includes i) plant morphology and stress response, ii) chromosome numbers, and iii) genetic markers. This is described in more detail in a previous blog post by Eric Watkins and Yinjie Qiu titled “Fine fescue forensics”.

In the video featured in this blog post, Dr. Aaron Patton presents more on these plant morphology and visual differences, such as growth habit, genetic color, leaf cross sections, and leaf-sheath, among the fine fescues to help you identify the current species/subspecies you manage. Why try to identify the species of fine fescue you manage? Because there are known strengths and weaknesses of each fine fescue species. Therefore, a better understanding of which fine fescues you have your site(s) will help you develop and implement a management plan based on your species and site conditions to increase plant health and enhance sustainability.

Video on fine fescue identification

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