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Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science





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Continued reduction in limited natural resources worldwide increasingly necessitates the incorporation of low-maintenance and low-input plant materials into urban landscapes. Some fine-leaved Festuca grass species have been used in formal gardens and native urban landscapes because of their inherent tolerance to abiotic stresses, but native, ornamental types (tall and non-spreading with multicolored culms and panicles) are not common in landscapes of the western United States. A native fine-leaved Festuca collection made in Montana (designated FEID 9025897) by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Services possesses such ornamental characteristics but has not been evaluated for its horticultural potential. Therefore, a study was designed to assess its phenotypic and genotypic attributes by cloning 270 FEID 9025897 plants and evaluating them along with native F. idahoensis and F. ovina PIs (five) and commercial checks (five) for genetic diversity and plant morphology for 2 years (2010–11). Plant genetic constitution was determined using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis. Plant height, width, biomass, relative vigor (visual rating of 0 = dead to 5 = green, abundant growth), persistence (number of plants alive per plot), and regrowth after clipping (visual rating of 0 = none to 5 = most) were estimated by evaluation of plants under replication at Hyde Park, UT. Based on AFLP-based coancestry analysis, FEID 9025897 plants possessed considerable genetic affinities with F. idahoensis. Morphological traits as averaged over both years varied in height (13.9 to 105.0 cm), width (9.9 to 66.2 cm), biomass (0 to 170.4 g), vigor (0.2 to 4.7), persistence (0 to 3.9), and regrowth (0 to 4.0). Based on these differences, 19 (7%) FEID 9025897 plants were identified for their ornamental potential that possessed multicolored (red, orange, and yellow) culms and varied in morphology with 2-year means of height (79.8 cm), width (45.2 cm), biomass (88.5 g), vigor (2.9), persistence (1.8), and regrowth (3.7).