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Festuca subverticillata
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Festuca subverticillata
Click to enlarge

Festuca subverticillata

While not a very lyrical name,  the gracefulness of this native woodland grass more than compensates for the clumsy feel as the specific epithet "subverticillata" stumbles to roll off the tongue.

Until I discovered Festuca subverticillata, with the help of world famous "Grass and Sedge Guru" Tony Reznicek, http://www.eeb.lsa.umich.edu/eebfacultydetails.asp?ID=89 I thought the only ornamental grass that would tolerate deep shade was Hystrix patula  AKA "Bottlebrush Grass".  You can see a picture of Hystrix patula at: http://www.nativeplants.on.ca/cat/grass_frame.htm Hystrix patula has a very interesting flower head,  but that's pretty much where it's ornamental value in the garden starts and stops.

Festuca subverticillata on the other hand goes all the way.  I've used it in the wilder, natural areas of the garden to fill in on hillsides and burms.  The graceful,  vaselike form and clumping habit shows off it's glossy foliage and adds a windswept element of texture to the garden.  It's a perfect alternative to lawns in a shady area,  and if you want to get rid of your mower,  plant this grass and you'll never have to mow again.

It seems to be a plant that tolerates a window of deep to bright shade and even a few hours of sunlight per day.

Propagation is easy by division and although I've never collected seed,  I'm sure that this is also a viable method of increasing a stand.

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom -
Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom -
Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision - 
Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division -
Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class - Liliopsidae
Subclass - Commelinidae
Order - Cyperales
Family - Poaceae
Genus - Festuca
Species - subverticillata
Common name - "Nodding Fescue"
Synonyms - Festuca obtusa
Native range -  http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/cgi/b98_map?genus=festuca&species=subverticillata
USDA Hardiness Zone - at least 5, possibly 4 or 3
Light preference -  Open bright shade to full shade
Soil fertility preference -    Average to rich
Soil pH preference - neutral to acidic
Soil moisture preference - Average
Bloom time -  Very early Spring
Bloom color - Beige
Fragrance - None
Foliage -  Dark green,  glossy
Spread - 6" - 10" clumps
Height - 8" - 18"
Deer palatability - Seems deerproof,  at least my deer don't seem interested
Landscape uses -  Adding texture to the shade garden
Related species - Many native and non native
Medicinal uses - None found

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Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm and Gardens
696 Glicks Rd, Renick, WV 24966, USA
Phone: (304) 497-2208
E-mail: barry@sunfarm.com

Last modified February 24, 2009
URL: http://www.sunfarm.com/picks/festucasubverticillata-1.phtml