Festuca altissima

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPoaceaeFestucaFestuca altissima


A long-lived perennial herb of moist, wooded valleys, on rocky slopes, deciduous wood margins and streamsides, especially on seepage lines or by waterfalls. It grows on soils of a moderate base status, often with Luzula sylvatica. 0-330 m (Haweswater, Westmorland).



World Distribution

European Temperate element.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 3

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 4

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 2.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 13.6

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1410

Height (cm): 120

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Tussock-forming graminoid, may slowly spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 241

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 85

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.83

JNCC Designations


External Species Accounts

Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Festuca altissima All.

Wood fescue

Status: not scarce


This species grows in shaded, fairly dry but humid situations in wooded ravines. It is found in crevices and on small ledges where it forms large, leafy tufts which trap soil around them. It prefers slightly basic conditions and other mildly calcicolous species such as Galium odoratum, Melica spp., Polystichum spp. and Sanicula europaea frequently occur nearby. Its outlying sites in south-east England are on sandstone outcrops. Although it is largely restricted to upland districts, it is restricted to low altitudes, being recorded from sea-level at Roudsea Wood to 300 metres in Ribblesdale.

This is a perennial species and the tufts are evidently long-lived.

There is no indication that this plant is decreasing, and recent more thorough investigations of its rather inaccessible habitat have shown it to be much more frequent than previously thought.

This species is scattered across Europe, extending from northern Spain, Italy and northern Greece to central Norway. It occurs very locally to 90 °E in central Asia. 


N. F. Stewart

Atlas text references

Atlas (374a) Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols. Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols. Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.