14.04 VULPIA C.C. Gmel.
Robert I. Lonard

Plants usually annual, rarely perennial. Culms 5–90 cm, erect or ascending from a decumbent base, usually glabrous. Sheaths open, usually glabrous; auricles absent; ligules usually shorter than 1 mm, membranous, usually truncate, ciliate; blades flat or rolled, glabrous or pubescent. Inflorescences panicles or racemes, sometimes spikelike, usually with more than 1 spikelet associated with each node; branches 1–3 per node, appressed or spreading, usually glabrous, scabrous. Spikelets pedicellate, laterally compressed, with 1–11(17) florets, distal florets reduced; disarticulation above the glumes and beneath the florets, occasionally also at the base of the pedicels. Glumes shorter than the adjacent lemmas, subulate to lanceolate, apices acute to acuminate, unawned or awn-tipped; lower glumes much shorter than the upper glumes, 1-veined; upper glumes 3-veined; rachillas terminating in a reduced floret; calluses blunt, glabrous; lemmas membranous, lanceolate, 3–5-veined, veins converging distally, margins involute over the edges of the caryopses, apices entire, acute to acuminate, mucronate or awned; paleas usually slightly shorter than to equaling the lemmas, sometimes longer; anthers usually 1, rarely 3 in chasmogamous specimens. Caryopses shorter than the lemmas, concealed at maturity, elongate, dorsally compressed, curved in cross section, falling with the lemma and palea. x = 7. Named for J.S. Vulpius, who studied the flora of Baden, Germany.

Vulpia, a genus of 30 species, is most abundant in Europe and the Mediterranean region (Cotton and Stace 1967). The Flora region has three native and three introduced species. Most species, including ours, are weedy, cleistogamous annuals, usually having one anther per floret. Festuca, in which Vulpia is sometimes included, consists of chasmogamous species having three anthers per floret. The two genera are closely related to each other. Sterile hybrids between Vulpia and Festuca, and Vulpia and Lolium, are known.

In the key and descriptions, the spikelet and lemma measurements exclude the awns.

SELECTED REFERENCES Cotton, R. and C.A. Stace. 1967. Taxonomy of the genus Vulpia (Gramineae): I. Chromosome numbers and geographical distribution of the Old World species. Genetica 46:235–255; Lonard, R.I. and F.W. Gould. 1974. The North American species of Vulpia (Gramineae). Madroño 22:217–230; Stace, C.A. 1975. Wild hybrids in the British flora. Pp. 111–125 in S.M. Walters (ed.). European Floristic and Taxonomic Studies. E.W. Classey, Faringdon, England. 144 pp.

For an interactive dichotomous key, click here; the interactive, multientry key is not yet available.

1. Lower glumes less than 1/2 the length of the upper glumes ... 2
1. Lower glumes 1/2 or more the length of the upper glumes ... 3
2. Lemmas 5-veined, glabrous except the margins sometimes ciliate; rachilla internodes 0.75–1.9 mm long ... V. myuros
2. Lemmas 3(5)-veined, pubescent or glabrous, the margins ciliate; rachilla internodes 0.4–0.9 mm long ... V. ciliata
3. Lemmas 2.5–3.5 mm long, the apices more pubescent than the bases; caryopses 1.5–2.5 mm long ... V. sciurea
3. Lemmas 2.7–9.5 mm long, if pubescent, the apices no more so than the bases but occasionally ciliate; caryopses 1.7–6.5 mm long ... 4
4. Panicle branches 1–2 per node; spikelets with 4–17 florets; rachilla internodes 0.5–0.7 mm long; awn of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 0.3–9 mm long; caryopses 1.7–3.7 mm long ... V. octoflora
4. Panicle branches solitary; spikelets with 1–8 florets; rachilla internodes 0.6–1.2 mm long; awn of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 2–20 mm long; caryopses 3.5–6.5 mm long ... 5
5. Panicle branches appressed to erect at maturity, without axillary pulvini; paleas equal to or shorter than the lemmas ... V. bromoides
5. Panicle branches spreading to reflexed at maturity, with axillary pulvini; paleas usually slightly longer than the lemmas ... V. microstachys


 

1. Vulpia myuros (L.) C.C. Gmel.
Foxtail Fescue, Rattail Fescue

Culms 10–75(90) cm, solitary or loosely tufted, branched or unbranched distally. Sheaths usually glabrous; ligules 0.3–0.5 mm; blades 2.4–10.5(17) cm long, 0.4–3 mm wide, usually rolled, occasionally flat, usually glabrous. Inflorescences 3–25 cm long, 0.5–1.5(2) cm wide, dense panicles or spikelike racemes, with 1 branch per node, often partially enclosed in the uppermost sheaths at maturity, pulvini absent; branches spreading or appressed to erect. Spikelets 5–12 mm, with 3–7 florets; rachilla internodes 0.75–1(1.9) mm. Glumes glabrous; lower glumes 0.5–2 mm, 1/5–1/2 the length of the upper glumes; upper glumes 2.5–5.5 mm; lemmas 4.5–7 mm, 5-veined, usually scabrous distally, glabrous except the margins sometimes ciliate, apices entire, awns 5–15(22) mm; paleas 4.7–6.4 mm, minutely bifid; anthers 0.5–1(2) mm. Caryopses 3–5 mm, fusiform, glabrous. 2n = 14 [f. myuros], 42 [f. myuros and f. megalura].

Vulpia myuros grows in well-drained, sandy soils and disturbed sites. It is native to Europe and North Africa. Vulpia myuros f. megalura (Nutt.) Stace & R. Cotton differs from Vulpia myuros (L.) C.C. Gmel. f. myuros in having ciliate lemma margins. It was once thought to be native to North America, but it occurs throughout the European and North African range of f. myuros, even in undisturbed areas.

 

2. Vulpia sciurea (Nutt.) Henrard
Squirreltail Fescue

Culms 15–50(60) cm, solitary or tufted, erect or drooping at maturity. Sheaths glabrous; ligules 0.5–l mm; blades usually shorter than 10 cm, 0.5–1 mm wide, flat or rolled, glabrous. Panicles 5–20 cm long, 0.5–1 cm wide, with 1–2 branches per node; branches appressed to erect. Spikelets 3.5–5.2 mm, with 3–6 florets; rachilla internodes 0.25–0.9 mm. Lower glumes 1.5–2.5 mm, about 2/3 the length of the upper glumes; upper glumes 2.5–4 mm; lemmas 2.5–3.5 mm, 3-veined, evidently pubescent distally, glabrous or sparsely pubescent proximally, awns 4.5–10 mm; paleas subequal or equal to the lemmas; anthers about 0.5 mm. Caryopses 1.5–2.5 mm. 2n = 42.

Vulpia sciurea, our most distinctive native species, is restricted to the Flora region. It can be recognized by its small spikelets and apically pubescent lemmas, and grows mostly in deep, sandy soils of open woodlands, old fields, roadside ditches, and sand hills in the southeastern Flora region. It is listed as endangered in New Jersey.

 

3. Vulpia octoflora (Walter) Rydb.
Sixweeks Fescue

Culms 5–60 cm, solitary or loosely tufted, glabrous or pubescent. Sheaths glabrous or pubescent; ligules 0.3–1 mm; blades to 10 cm long, 0.5–1 mm wide, flat or rolled, glabrous or pubescent. Panicles 1–7(20) cm long, 0.5–1.5 cm wide, with 1–2 branches per node; branches appressed to spreading. Spikelets 4–10(13) mm, with (4)5–11(17) florets; rachilla internodes 0.5–0.7 mm. Lower glumes 1.7–4.5 mm, 1/2–2/3 the length of the upper glumes; upper glumes 2.5–7.2 mm; lemmas 2.7–6.5 mm, 5-veined, smooth, scabrous, or pubescent, apices entire, no more pubescent than the bases, awns of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 0.3–9 mm; paleas slightly shorter than the lemmas, apices entire or minutely bifid, teeth shorter than 0.2 mm; anthers 0.3–1.5 mm. Caryopses 1.7–3.7 mm. 2n = 14.

Vulpia octoflora, a widespread native species, tends to be displaced by the introduced Bromus tectorum in the Pacific Northwest. It grows in grasslands, sagebrush, and open woodlands, as well as in disturbed habitats and areas of secondary succession, such as old fields, roadsides, and ditches. Three varieties are recognized here, but their characterization is not completely satisfactory, e.g., plants of the southwestern United States with spikelets in the size range of var. glauca often have densely pubescent lemmas, the distinguishing characteristic of var. hirtella.

1. Spikelets usually 4–6.5 mm long; awn of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 0.3–3 mm long ... var. tenella
1. Spikelets usually 5.5–13 mm long; awn of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 2.5–9 mm long ... 2
2. Lemmas scabrous to pubescent ... var. hirtella
2. Lemmas usually smooth, sometimes scabridulous distally and on the margins ... var. octoflora

Vulpia octoflora var. hirtella (Piper) Henrard

Panicle branches appressed, spikelets closely imbricate. Spikelets usually 5.5–10 mm. Lemmas prominently scabrous to densely pubescent; awns of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 2.5–6.5 mm.

Vulpia octoflora var. hirtella is most frequent from British Columbia south through the western United States and into Mexico. It is the most common variey of V. octoflora in the southwest.

Vulpia octoflora (Walter) Rydb. var. octoflora

Panicle branches erect to ascending, lower branches sometimes spreading distally. Spikelets usually 5.5–10(13) mm, usually not or only slightly overlapping. Lemmas usually smooth, sometimes scabridulous distally and on the margins; awns of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 3–9 mm.

Vulpia octoflora var. octoflora is widespread throughout southern Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and has been introduced into temperate regions of South America, Europe, and Asia. It is most common from northern Oklahoma to Virginia, south to the Texas Gulf prairie and Florida.

Vulpia octoflora var. tenella (Willd.) Fernald NOTE Name has been changed from var. glauca. The change was required by the Code. See Allred, K.W. 2008. Phytologia 90:414-415.

Panicle branches usually appressed, infrequently spreading distally, spikelets closely arranged. Spikelets usually 4–6.5 mm, subsessile or short-pedicellate. Lemmas glabrous or scabrous; awns of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 0.3–3 mm.

Vulpia octoflora var. tenella is most frequent in southern Canada and the northern half of the United States, and is the most common representative of V. octoflora from North Dakota to western Kansas, and east to Maine and Virginia.

 

4. Vulpia bromoides (L.) Gray
Brome Fescue

Culms 5–50 cm, solitary or loosely tufted, erect or decum-bent, smooth, scabridulous, or puberulent, unbranched distal-ly. Sheaths glabrous or pub-erulent; ligules to 0.5(1) mm; blades usually 2–10 cm long, 0.5–2.5 mm wide, rolled or flat, glabrous or puberulent. Panicles 1.5–15 cm long, 0.5–3 cm wide, conspicuously exserted, with 1 branch per node; branches usually appressed to erect at maturity, without axillary pulvini; pedicels flattened, sometimes clavate distally. Spikelets 5–10 mm, with 4–8 florets, not closely imbricate; rachilla internodes 0.6–1.1 mm. Lower glumes 3.5–5 mm, 1/2–4/5 the length of the upper glumes; upper glumes 4.5–9.5 mm, midveins scabrous distally; lemmas 4–8 mm, 5-veined, scabrous distally, apices entire, awns of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet 2–13 mm; paleas 4–6.3 mm, equaling or shorter than the lemmas, minutely bifid; anthers 0.4–0.6(1.5) mm. Caryopses 3.5–5 mm. 2n = 14.

Vulpia bromoides is a common European species that grows in wet to dry, open habitats. It is adventive and naturalized in North and South America. In North America, it is most common on the west coast, where it grows from British Columbia to northern Baja California; it occurs sparingly in other regions.

 

5. Vulpia microstachys (Nutt.) Munro
Small Fescue

Culms 15–75 cm, solitary or loosely tufted, usually glabrous, occasionally puberulent. Sheaths glabrous or pubescent; ligules 0.5–1 mm; blades usually shorter than 10 cm, 0.5–1 mm wide, usually rolled, occasion-ally flat, glabrous or pubescent. Inflorescences 2–24 cm long, 0.8–8 cm wide, usually panicles, sometimes spikelike racemes; branches solitary, with axillary pulvini, appressed to erect when immature, spreading to reflexed at maturity. Spikelets 4–10 mm, with 1–6 florets, often purple-tinged; rachilla internodes 0.6–1.2 mm. Glumes smooth, scabrous, or pubescent; lower glumes 1.7–5.5 mm, 1/2–3/4 the length of the upper glumes; upper glumes 3.5–7.5 mm; lemmas 3.5–9.5 mm, smooth, scabrous, or evenly pubescent, 5-veined, awns of the lowermost lemma in each spikelet (3)6–20 mm; paleas usually slightly longer than the lemmas, apices minutely bifid, teeth 0.2–0.5 mm; anthers 0.7–3 mm. Caryopses 3.5–6.5 mm. 2n = 42.

Vulpia microstachys is native to western North America, growing from British Columbia south through the western United States into Baja California. Four varieties are recognized here on the basis of spikelet indumentum, but they frequently occur together, and intergrading forms are known. No difference in their geographic or ecological distribution is known.

1. Glumes and lemmas smooth or scabrous ... var. pauciflora
1. Glumes and/or lemmas pubescent ... 2
2. Glumes and lemmas pubescent ... var. ciliata
2. Glumes or lemmas, but not both, pubescent ... 3
3. Glumes pubescent; lemmas glabrous ... var. confusa
3. Glumes glabrous; lemmas pubescent ... var. microstachys

 

Vulpia microstachys var. ciliata (A. Gray) Lonard & Gould
Eastwood Fescue

Spikelets usually with 2–4 florets. Glumes and lemmas sparsely or densely pubescent.

Vulpia microstachys var. ciliata grows in loose, sandy soils.

 

Vulpia microstachys var. confusa (Piper) Lonard & Gould
Confusing Fescue

Spikelets usually with 1–3 florets. Glumes pubescent; lemmas glabrous.

Vulpia microstachys var. confusa grows in sandy, open sites.

 

Vulpia microstachys (Nutt.) Munro var. microstachys
Desert Fescue

Spikelets with (1)2–5 florets. Glumes glabrous; lemmas sparsely to densely pubescent.

Vulpia microstachys var. microstachys grows most commonly in loose soil on open slopes and roadsides.

 

Vulpia microstachys var. pauciflora (Scribn. ex Beal) Lonard & Gould
Pacific Fescue

Spikelets with 1–6 florets. Glumes and lemmas smooth or scabrous.

Vulpia microstachys var. pauciflora grows in sandy, often disturbed sites, and is the most common and widespread variety of the complex. It is often intermingled with plants of the other varieties.

 

6. Vulpia ciliata Dumort.
Fringed Fescue

Culms 6–45 cm, loosely tufted. Sheaths smooth, glabrous; ligules 0.2–0.5 mm; blades 3.5–10 cm long, about 0.4 mm wide, folded to involute, ab-axial surfaces glabrous, adaxial surfaces puberulent. Inflor-escences 3–20 cm long, 0.3–1.5 cm wide, panicles or spicate racemes, usually partially enclosed in the uppermost sheaths at maturity, with 1 branch per node, axillary pulvini absent. Spikelets 5–10.5 mm, with 4–10 florets; rachilla internodes 0.4–0.9 mm. Glumes glabrous; lower glumes 0.1–1.3 mm, less than 1/3 the length of the upper glumes; upper glumes 1.5–4 mm; lemmas 4–7.7 mm, 3(5)-veined, usually pubescent on the midvein, sometimes also on the body, rarely glabrous on both, margins ciliate, hairs to 1 mm, awns 6–15.3 mm; paleas slightly shorter than to equaling the lemmas, apices entire; anthers 0.4–0.6(1.6) mm. Caryopses 3.4–6.5 mm. 2n = 42.

Vulpia ciliata is native to Europe, the Mediterranean area, and southwest and central Asia. It grows in open, dry habitats. It is easily distinguished from other members of the genus because of its upper glumes with broadly membranous tips that break off, making the glumes appear truncate or blunt. In the Flora region, it was known until recently only from an old ballast dump record from Philadelphia. In May 2004, it was collected immediately north of the Odgen Bay Waterfowl Management Area, Weber County, Utah, in an upland area of the site. The source of the seeds is not known.