This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This upland grass is widespread, occurring" at the present day in the N. Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Africa, Siberia, Himalayas, N. and S. America, and the mountains of Australasia. Sheep's Fescue grows in every county in Great Britain, as far north as the Shetlands, at all elevations, and in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
This is a grass which is more or less confined to a sandy habitat, and though it will grow in the lowlands as in silty deposits of rivers, it shuns clayey formations, but grows on dry pastures and other spots where it can satisfy its sand-loving tendency.
The stem is erect, growing in dense tufts with curved, bristle-like leaves, the upper ones narrow, flat, rough, with smooth sheaths, and a bilobed ligule. It is a tufted plant, forming a fine and durable turf. The whole plant is bluish-white.
Photo. H. Irving. - Sheep's Fescue (Festuca Ovina, L., Var. Duriuscula, Hackel)
The panicle is narrow, one-sided, or all turned one way, with egg-shaped spikelets, 4-12-flowered, smooth, hairy, and purple. The flowering glumes are rounded, blunt, terminated with a sharp point, with short awns, viviparous, the awn shorter than the palea. The flowers have 3 stamens. There are hairs on the top of the ovary. Sheep's Fescue is 1 ft. in height. Flowers are at their best in June and July. It is a perennial grass, propagated by division.
The floral symmetry is similar to that of Sand Fescue, the flowers being triandrous and 3-12 flowered, pollinated by the wind.
The fruit is light, and adapted for wind dispersal in spite of the short awn.
This is a sand plant, growing on sand soil or on barren rock soil, which is derived from granitic or arenaceous rocks. It is also char-acteristic of chalk soils.
Barley-leaf Stripe, Pyrenophora trichostoma, is found to attack it, also a gall, Enura depressa, caused by a Hymenopterous insect. The Mountain Ringlet, Erebia epiphron, is found on it, also Anerastia lotela.
Festuca is Latin for stalk, stem, or straw. The second Latin name means pertaining to sheep, because they will eat it, with the exception of the flowering stems. It is called Black Twitch, Fescue Grass. It is a suitable grass for lawns, forming short, thick turf, but is not a valuable meadow grass.
Essential Specific Characters:341. Festuca ovina, L. - Stem erect, leaves setaceous, tufted, curved, radical leaves narrow, glaucous, panicle unilateral, awn shorter than palea, spikelets purple, glabrous.