Rough Fescue

Credit: 
Rick Tucker
Credit: 
JRJ
Scientific name: 

Festuca campestris Rydb.

Type: 
Native Grass
Annual precip. min (mm): 
350
Annual precip. max (mm): 
610
Seed size: 
Medium
Seeds per kg: 
600,000
PR Suitability note: 
Rough fescue is not found in the native grasslands of the Peace Region.
Key considerations: 
One of the most productive native range grasses.
General Description: 

Rough fescue is a densely tufted, native perennial bunchgrass, and an important component of British Columbia’s native grasslands. The name rough refers to the rough edges of the leaves and stems.

It has fibrous roots and is rarely rhizomatous. Plants spread from tufts growing at the edges of the crowns.

Stems are 40 to 90 cm (16 to 35 in.) tall with no exposed nodes. Leaf blades may be flat or folded 10 to 60 cm (4 to 24 in.) long and 1.2 to 3.2 mm wide when flat. Dense basal leaves are dark green and produce large amounts of forage, while taller leafless stems produce the seed heads. Seed heads are mature in 90 to 95 days from the first growth in spring.

Origin: 
Rough fescue is native to British Columbia.
Distribution: 
Rough fescue is a common dominant bunchgrass in grassland associations of south central and southeast British Columbia, and southern Alberta. It also occurs in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Colorado.
Habitat and climate: 
It occurs on moist to dry grasslands and forest openings in the steppe to subalpine zones.
Uses: 
Important forage for both wildlife and livestock. Used in grassland restoration and site rehabilitation.
Recovery after use (rating): 
L
Recovery after use: 
Can be managed with proper utilization and periodic year-long rest. Continued defoliation during the latter part of the spring growth period can be detrimental to rough fescue.
Forage yield (rating): 
M
Forage yield: 
Rough fescue is one of the highest yielding of British Columbia’s native grasses. Yields on excellent condition grasslands where it is dominant average more than 1,100 kg/ha (982 lb/acre) and can be as high as 2,700 kg/ha (2,411 lb/acre).
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Rough fescue has fairly good palatability and is readily grazed. Rough fescue has different forage and palatability levels in different regions. It cures on the stem but early frosts may interfere with the curing process.
Longevity (rating): 
H
Longevity: 
Rough fescue is long lived.
Persistence (rating): 
M
Persistence: 
Good persistence once established, and when managed appropriately.
Invasiveness (rating): 
L
Invasiveness: 
Not invasive.
Competitiveness (rating): 
H
Competitiveness: 
It is competitive when well established in naturally occurring native plant communities.
Weed resistance (rating): 
L
Weed resistance: 
Low weed resistance when it is being established. Established stands have much higher weed resistance.
Erosion control (rating): 
L
Erosion control: 
Can provide high protection from erosion once established. Slow establishment limits use in critical erosion control situations.
Drought tolerance (rating): 
L
Drought tolerance: 
Rough fescue has low drought tolerance.
Winter hardiness (rating): 
M
Winter hardiness: 
Rough fescue requires a frost free period of at least 90 days.
Soil texture preference (rating): 
MC
Soil texture preference: 
Rough fescue prefers medium- to coarse-textured soils.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
L
Flooding tolerance: 
Rough fescue has low tolerance to flooding.
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
M
Acidity tolerance : 
Rough fescue can tolerate soil pH levels of 6 to 8.
Shade tolerance: 
Rough fescue has intermediate shade tolerance.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
L
Ease of establishment: 
Emergence is poor despite high germination rates. Rough fescue has moderate seedling vigour. Stand development is slow. Fourteen years after pipeline restoration in Alberta, seeded rough fescue cover is 50% of control sites.
Application requirements: 
Broadcast seeding using the Kinsella Accuroller (roller and imprinter) was reasonably successful in a major pipeline restoration project in Alberta.
Suggested mixtures: 
Suitable with early- to mid-succession native species.
Management considerations: 
Grazing management is required for rough fescue to establish and persist.