Over half of the world’s population lives in an urban setting (Worldwatch Institute, 2007), where ornamental plants provide environments that encourage the presence of wildlife and plant diversity (Damschen et al., 2006) and offer a myriad of social and economic benefits (Lohr et al., 2007; Wolf, 2004). However, continued reduction in limited natural resources worldwide increasingly necessitates novel approaches for the incorporation of low maintenance and low-input plant materials into urban landscapes (Cook, 1996; Dewey et al., 2006).
The popularity of ornamental grasses for use in urban landscapes, parks, median strips, parking lot borders, and for erosion control on slopes has increased in recent years (Loram et al., 2008; Wilson and Knox, 2006). Although native and nonnative grasses are considered central to many U.S. urban landscapes (Beard and Green, 1994; Fender, 2006), there is an increasing consumer demand for low-input naturally occurring grass species for various horticultural applications, especially in semiarid regions of the western United States (Dewey et al., 2006; Thetford et al., 2009). In such regions (USDA hardiness zones 3–5; annual precipitation 254–610 mm) relatively short-statured (15–30 cm tall) perennial grasses such as little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash], Western wheatgrass [Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love; synom. Agropyron smithii (Rydb). Barkworth & D.R. Dewey], prairie Junegrass [Koeleria macrantha (Ledeb.) Schult.; synom. K. cristata auct.], needle grass [Stipa spartea (Trin.) Barkworth], buffalo grass [Buchloe dactyloides (Nutt.) Engelm.], and blue grama [Bouteloua gracilis (Kunth) Lag. ex Griffiths] are being increasingly used for low-input urban horticultural applications (Wilson, 2011).
Drought tolerant, tall-statured (>40 cm tall), western U.S. indigenous grasses with intense multicolored culms and panicles are not commercially available for low-input ornamental applications. The genus Festuca contains about 300 genetically diverse, wide- and narrow-leaved perennial, tufted and rhizomatous grass species, of which several possess drought tolerance and have attributes useful for low-input applications (Ruemmele et al., 2003). For instance, some fine-leaved Festuca species [e.g., F. rubra var. commutata Gaud.; F. ovina var. duriuscala (L.) Koch] remain relatively green under high temperatures (e.g., >30 °C) and drought conditions, and have been useful for a variety of turf applications (Aronson et al., 1987; Ruemmele et al., 2003). In 1982, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Bridger Plant Materials Center (BPMC) collected seed from an indigenous fine-leaved Festuca population in a semiarid region near Busby, MT, and designated it FEID 9025897. This population possesses tall-statured genotypes with multicolored stems (Staub et al., 2014) and is the source for the naturally occurring ornamental Festuca germplasms described herein for use in semiarid growing environments.
Barkworth, M.E., Capels, K.M., Long, S., Andeton, L.K. & Piep (eds.). M.B. 2007 Flora of North America. Oxford University Press, New York, NY
Beard, J.B. & Green, R.L. 1994 The role of turfgrasses in environmental protection and their benefits to humans J. Environ. Qual. 23 452 460
Cook, T. 1996 Low maintenance turf. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Damschen, E.I., Haddad, N.M., Orrock, J.L., Tweksbury, J.J. & Levey, D.J. 2006 Corridors increase plant species richness at large scales Science 313 5791 1284 1286
Dewey, D.W., Johnson, P.G. & Kjelgren, R.K. 2006 Effects of irrigation and mowing on species diversity of grass and wildflower mixtures for the Intermountain West Native Plants J. 7 267 278
Fender, D. 2006 Urban perennial grasses in time of water crisis: Benefits and concerns. Council for agricultural science and technology (CAST). Water quality and quantity issues for turfgrasses in urban landscapes, Las Vegas, NV
Jones, T.A., Larson, S.R. & Wilson, B.L. 2008 Genetic differentiation and admixture among Festuca idahoensis, F. roemeri, and F. ovina detected in AFLP, ITS, and chloroplast DNA Botany 86 422 434
Lohr, V.I., Pearson-Mims, C.H. & Goodwin, G.K. 2007 Interior plants may improve worker productivity and reduce stress in a windowless environment. Plants in buildings. 8 Aug. 2013.<http://www.plants-in-buildings.com/whyplantsstressreduction.php>
Loram, A., Warren, P.H. & Gaston, K.J. 2008 Urban domestic gardens (XIV): The characteristics of gardens in five cities Environ. Mgt. 42 361 376
Ruemmele, B.A., Wipff, J.K., Brilman, L. & Hignight, K.W. 2003 Fine-leaved Festuca species, p. 129–172. In: M.D. Casler and R.R. Duncan (eds.). Turfgrass biology, genetics, and breeding. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ
Staub, J.E., Robbins, M.D., Ma, Y. & Johnson, P.G. 2014 Phenotypic and genotypic analysis of a U.S. native fine-leaved Festuca population reveals its potential use for low-input urban landscapes J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 139 706 715
Thetford, M., Norcini, J.G., Ballard, B. & Aldrich, J.H. 2009 Ornamental landscape performance of native and nonnative grasses under low-input conditions HortTechnology 19 267 285
Wilson, C.R. 2011 Ornamental grasses. Extension bulletin no. 7.232. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. 11 Aug. 2013. <www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07232.html>
Wilson, S.B. & Knox, G.W. 2006 Landscape performance, flowering, and seed viability of 15 Japanese silver grass cultivars grown in northern and southern Florida HortTechnology 16 686 693
Worldwatch Institute 2007 Cities key to tackling poverty and climate change. 15 Aug. 2016. <http://worldwatch.org/node/4839>
Wolf, K.L. 2004 Trees, parking and green law: Strategies for sustainability. University of Washington. 10 Aug. 2016. <www.cfr.washington.edu/research.envmind/Roadside/Trees_Parking.pdf>