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What is Festuca?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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Festuca, commonly known as fescue, is a genus composed of several hundred species of tufted grasses that are mostly found in cool places, like the transition zone and in Canada. Plants under this genus are categorized as tall fescues or fine, short ones. Some of the shorter fescue species are called chewing fescue, creeping red, and sheep fescue. The tall grasses are considered ideal for feeding livestock, while the fine grasses are often used as lawn grasses.

Festuca plants are tolerant of drought and can exist even in areas that are often considered too hot or too cold for both warm and cool types of grasses. Despite there being hundreds of varieties, grasses in the Festuca genus share three dominant characteristics: shade tolerance, drought resistance, and staying green all year round under normal conditions. Some of them change colors when the temperature is extremely cold or intensely hot.

The most common type of tufted grass found in homes in northeastern and north-central United States and Europe is the chewing’s fescue. They are often considered the most ideal type of grass for a lawn. This type of grass is fine-leaved and requires limited mowing because it is low growing.

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Grasses in the Festuca genus are not only useful for lawns and bowling greens. They are used as pasture for livestock and hay for some animals, as they are highly nutritious. These grasses are also used for conservation purposes and are planted in areas where soil erosion is a problem. Both tall and fine fescues can quickly suppress the growth of weeds.

Although grasses in the Festuca genus are generally tolerant to varying weather conditions, the tall tufted grasses should not be planted in areas with temperatures less than 10 degrees F (12 degrees C), as this can kill the seedling. This means that tall festuce should not be planted in northern regions where the temperature can be extremely cold. If these grasses are mature, they may be able to survive these very cold temperatures, but young grasses generally will not.

Most of the fine leaf grasses in the Festuca genus, such as the creeping red, can be grown in soils that are well drained and established. The soil should have low pH; otherwise the plants will most likely die. Fine leaf fescues can thrive when planted in shaded or exposed lawns. When the heat is intense or there is drought, the fine fescues turn brown. Owners should not think that the grasses have died, however; the plants are simply lying dormant.

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