Spike Fescue

Spike Fescue, courtesy of Intermountain Herbarium

© Intermountain Herbarium, http://herbarium.usu.edu/

Common Name(s):

Spike Fescue
King Fescue

Scientific Name(s):

Leucopoa kingii (S. Wats.) W.A. Weber

Scientific Name Synonyms:

Festuca confinis Vasey
Festuca kingii (S. Watson) Cassidy
Hesperochloa kingii (S. Watson) Rydb.
Poa kingii S. Watson




Life Span: Perennial
Origin: Native
Season: Cool


Growth Characteristics:Spike fescue is a tufted and rhizomatous grass, growing 12-39 inches tall. Male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. 

Seedhead:Its seedhead is a panicle 3-9 inches long with erect or spreading branches that produce spikelets to the base. Spikelets contain 3-4 florets with male spikelets slightly larger than female spikelets. Glumes are unequal and 1/8 – 1/4 inch long with the first glume smaller than the second. Lemmas are up to 1/3 inch long, rough or hairy and sharp. 


Leaves:Leaf blades are 5½-16 inches long, erect, smooth, flat or loosely rolled and stiff. Ligules are short and squared-off with an uneven and hairy margin. Sheaths are conspicuous and persisting, closed only at the base and smooth or with backward hairs on the lowest individuals. 

Ecological Adaptations:

Spike fescue occurs in or near the mountainous areas of Utah where annual precipitation is ≥12”. It is found in habitats from dry sagebrush plains to subalpine meadows at elevations from 5,500-11,700’. It commonly grows on exposed rocky slopes and ridges.


Soils: Found on medium-fine textured, rocky soils.

Associated Species: Associated species include big sagebrush, snowberry, slender wheatgrass, sandberg bluegrass, prairie junegrass, Idaho fescue, pinyon, juniper, rabbitbrush, Gambel oak, Utah serviceberry, aspen, ponderosa pine and limber pine.

Uses and Management:

Spike fescue is rarely abundant enough to provide much forage for livestock and wildlife. It provides some erosion control by virtue of its rhizomatous character.