Festuca californica

California fescue

Habit: this cool-season perennial grass forms an elegant, large clump of silver blue to dull green foliage. After mature plants dry out in the summer, new blades emerge with the first rains of fall, and grow quickly, up to 2 feet or more in height. Blades are alternate, linear, and have parallel veins and a smooth texture. In the Spring, the plant is adorned with 3 feet tall flowering stems which are topped with grayish-blue spikelets. Each spikelet is composed of several florets that become tan and bleach away with age.

Ecology: Festuca californica is found in chaparrals, open and shaded woodlands and evergreen forests up to 5,000 feet. It is native from Western and Central California, and Western Oregon. It is found from the pacific coast to mid elevations of the Cascade Ranges, San Bernadino Mountains and Sierra Nevada.

Growing conditions:¬†full sun to partial shade in moist to dry soils. This plant is drought-tolerant and easy to care for, not requiring supplemental water in most habitats. It complements any garden either as a ground cover or a focal point, and it’s also attractive to birds, butterflies and bees.

Along with acorns, grass seeds were an important food source for Native American tribes in California. The Ohlone processed Califonia fescue seeds by pounding then into a flour and ate it in a variety of ways. The abundant, durable foliage of the plant was also used by natives as a construction material for roofs.

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Type: Perennial grass
Height: 1-4 feet (30 to 122 cm)
Width: 1-3 feet (30-91 cm)
USDA Zones: 7a to 10b
Map courtesy of USDA-NRCS Plants Database.