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74   FODDER AND PASTURE PLANTS.

SHEEP'S FESCUE (Festuca ovina L.)
Seed, Plate 26, Fig. 19.

Botanical description: Sheep's Fescue is perennial, forming dense tufts. The stems are numerous and slender, more or less angular, and from eight to twenty-four inches high. They are surrounded at their base with numerous secondary shoots, arising from buds within the persisting sheaths of old root leaves. The shoots appear from the mouth of the sheaths, not from their base, as in Red Fescue. For this reason the sheaths are not cut into strips, as in Red Fescue, but are entire, except in their upper part, and the base of the stems is not surrounded by tattered scales and strips. The leaves are very narrow and generally pale green, those of the basal shoots three to four inches long, those of the stem only about an inch. They are rolled up in the bud and persist in this condition even when fully developed. This is the reason why the leaves of Sheep's Fescue always have a bristly appearance. The flowers are in a one-sided panicle, one to four inches long. The branches of the panicle spread during flowering but later become erect so as to give it the appearance of a narrow spike. The spikelets are green, often with a violet tint. Each spikelet contains three or four flowers and each flower is enclosed within two glumes. The outer scale carries a short awn at its top.

 

Geographical distribution: Sheep's Fescue is indigenous to the Old World, its range extending from England to Japan and from Spitzbergen and Iceland to North Africa and the Himalayas. It is native to Canada and some parts of the United States; many of the cultivated forms, however, have been introduced from Europe where it has been grown since about 182o.

 

Habitat: It grows naturally in any dry locality—in dry pastures and sandy fields, on rocks, etc., from the seashore to the Alpine region of the mountains. In Europe it is found eight thousand feet above sea level.

Cultural conditions: Sheep's Fescue flourishes on dry and sterile ground where most other grasses cannot get a foothold or, if established, perish from drought and lack of nourishment. It endures practically all the hardships of nature without being seriously damaged and recovers quickly after long periods of suffering. Lack of moisture brings it to a standstill; severe drought may make its


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