Photo courtesy of Dr. Roger Banner, USU Extension
Festuca thurberi Vasey
Scientific Name Synonyms:
Life Span: Perennial
Growth Characteristics: A densely tufted bunchgrass, without rhizomes, growing 1 ½ to over 3 feet tall, often in dense stands. It reproduces by seed and tillers.
Seedhead:Numerous, open, spreading to slightly drooping panicles, 4 to 6 inches long; spikelets about ½ inch long, containing 3 to 6 florets; lemmas rigidly pointed but without awns.
Leaves: Glabrous to glaucous; blades rolled, narrow, 3 to 8 inches long, firm erect; ligules membranous, conspicuous, up to ¼ inch long, taper pointed; auricles absent.
Thurber fescue is native to Utah and is limited in its distribution to the high mountain slopes and valley bottoms at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet. It occurs on the Boulder Mountains, Henry Mountains, the Book Cliff's, and other high mountain areas with substantial summer precipitation. Thurber fescue grows in zones with an annual precipitation of 16 to 36 inches.
Soils: It prefers deep, well-developed, medium to fine textured soils. It does best on deep, sandy loam soils.
Associated Species: Associated species are serviceberry, aspen, blue wildrye, slender wheatgrass, and mountain brome.
Uses and Management:
Thurber's fescue is only fair for cattle, sheep, horse, elk, and deer beginning in the late spring season. It can provide good forage during early spring growth. It is used as feed and cover for small mammals. Not withstanding its low palatability later in the season, moderate grazing use is necessary in order to maintain the plants in a healthy, productive condition.
It is considered to be a fair erosion control plant and is adapted for roadside seedings in the 20-inch precipitation belt. It does promote rapid infiltration and controlled runoff due to the abundant root growth and litter it provides.