October 1998 - Volume V, Issue 10

The Fine Leaf Fescues

David M. Kopec, Extension Turfgrass Specialist

Many of us are familiar with tall fescue. This is hardy grass that grows well when irrigated at the mid-elevation (3500-4500 ft.) and the high elevation (4500 ft. and above) regions in Arizona. There are other species of "fine leaf fescues" and they have a limited use in Arizona. New and improved varieties have and continue to be developed.

Creeping red fescue (CRF): Festuca rubra
This is the dark green fescue that is used in mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass. It is usually mixed as 20-30% of the overall mixture. It is quite shade tolerant. CRF reproduces vegetatively by producing short underground rhizomes. Disease and drought problems prevent it from being planted alone in our state.

Chewings fescue: Festuca rubra commutata
This is a fine leaf fescue which does well on infertile and shallow soils. However, it does not like high pH soils. This is a bunch grass (like ryegrass) and does not have either underground rhizomes or above ground runners (stolons). The color of Chewings fescue is more of a bright green color. Chewings fescue can produce a dense turf and is persistent under high mowing and low maintenance conditions. Although it is a bunch grass it can produce thatch eventually.

Hard fescue: Festuca longifolia
This is also a bunch type fine fescue and reproduces from tillers only. These are similar in appearance to sheep fescue (the blue fescues) but have wider, tougher and less bluish leaves. The color is more of a gray-green cast. Hard fescue is more tolerant of higher fertility and more soil moisture condition than sheep or blue fescues. Improved types of hard fescue have good turf type qualities and are fairly dense. They do, however, have a lower nutrient requirement and slower growth rate the Chewings fescue.

Sheeps fescue: Festuca ovina and Blue fescue: Festuca glavca
These two species possess stiff-upright blue-green leaves. Sheeps and blue fescues require little maintenance and like to be mowed high. They will decrease in turf performance when mowed low and receive lots of nitrogen. Sheeps fescue and blue fescue are often used in stabilization mixtures with wildflowers. The bunch type habit and blue color enhances ornamental features of a meadow-like landscape.

Commercially produced cultivars of fine leaf fescues

Creeping red fescue:
Sea Breeze, Dawson, Shademaster II, Jasper II, Aruba, Flyer II and Rondo.

Chewings fescue:
Jamestown, Jamestown II, Shadow II, Majic, Brittany, Victory II, Tiffany, Victory E+, Banner II and Treazure.

Hard fescue:
Discovery, SR3100, Ecostar, Nordic, Reliant II, Spartan, Scaldis and Pamela.

Sheeps fescue and Blue fescue:
Bighorn, Azure and Quatro.

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