Rough Fescue


One of the important grasses of the prairies of the southern Rocky Mountains and foothills, rough fescue forms large tussocks with stems 40–120 cm tall and seed heads 10–20 cm long.

Fescue and other grasses that make up “prairie wool” (a regional term used to describe native prairie grasses) are less nutritious than alfalfa. Compared with alfalfa, fescue contains only one-third as much protein, and is less digestible. (Johnston 24) However, bison thrive on poorer quality feed than can cattle, and fescue grasslands were essential in the life of the Blackfoot. 


Growth habit and range: This is a tufted, erect, cool season grass which grows to a height of 30–60 cm. Short rhizomes are present. It is commonly found on grasslands and open wooded areas in the southwestern and northwestern portions of the province.

Description: The blades are 1–2.5 mm wide, grey-green in colour, somewhat pubescent and flat to curled inward on the edges. The flowers occur in a panicle which is narrow to open in character and 8–15 cm long. Each seed is 7–8 mm long. 


  • Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.