Festuca roemeri / Festuca idahoensis ssp roemeri
Roemer’s Fescue is a highly-ornamental bunchgrass with compact tufts that usually stand less than one foot tall. It's an evergreen, looking its finest in the cooler months when it sports lush blue-green foliage. By late spring, it shoots up tan seed stalks 2-5’ tall, swaying in the wind, until the plant goes dormant to wait out the heat and drought of mid-summer. This bunchgrass was once a common component of Willamette Valley oak savannas, but is now overtaken by invasive weeds and has diminished to almost nothing. In this way, Roemer’s Fescue presents us with an important opportunity to bring part of Oregon’s ecological legacy back to our gardens.
- Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous, perennial, grass or grass-like plant
- Size at maturity: 12" tall, 12-24" wide (seed stalks 2-5' tall)
- Light requirements: full sun
- Moisture requirements: dry to moist soil, prefers well-drained
- Bloom time: n/a
- Growth rate/ease: moderate growth rate, easy to grow
- Wildlife support: like most native bunchgrasses, it provides excellent cover and nesting habitat for arthropods; larval host plant for the rare Mardon Skipper butterfly
- Native habitat/range: found in meadows, grasslands, forest openings and upland prairies with dry to mesic rocky soils, at near sea-level to 1800m, from British Columbia to California; mostly west of the Cascade crest. Portland Plant List - yes.
- Special features & uses: evergreen; drought-tolerant; landscape uses include erosion control and as an important component in the restoration of upland prairie and oak savanna
Gardening with Roemer’s Fescue: Roemer’s Fescue is ideal for dry sunny areas, meadowscapes and parking strips. Since it’s at its peak in the cooler seasons, it makes a great addition to open areas in need of winter interest - such as a pollinator garden where other perennials are dormant. It is an excellent underplanting for drought adapted shrubs, especially on slopes where it can help stabilize the bank. In a water-conscious non-irrigated garden, it will follow it’s natural cycle, going completely cere, or dormant, in the summer. But, regular watering and good drainage can keep it lucious all summer long. It can spread by seed, volunteering itself in new locations making it perfect for the wilder, rather than manicured, areas of your garden.
Photo Credits 1-4: "Festuca idahoensis" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo Credit 5: Nikkie West, Sparrowhawk Native Plants