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Feature Expedition

Flora of the Britain and Ireland: Festuca

SpecimensRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The genus Festuca sits within the grass family, Poaceae, the largest family of flowering plants in Britain and Ireland with around 160 species. Globally it can be found on every continent including Antartica.

Grasses play a crucial role in preventing soil erosion and are critically important in supporting many of the world’s biomes. The family is the single most important source of food for people both directly as cereal crops (wheat, oats, rice etc.) and indirectly for meat and dairy (pastures for domesticated livestock). A variety of species are used as ornamental cultivars in gardens, and as turf in parks and sporting grounds. 

Within Britain and Ireland the genus Festuca consists of around 15 species. The characteristics of the genus reflect those found in the family, with a number of species being used in soil erosion control programmes, as fodder in agriculture and ornamental plants in gardens across the British isles.

The collections from Britain and Ireland held within the RBGE Herbarium are estimated to number over 500,000 specimens of cryptogams (algae, fungi, lichens and mosses), ferns, gymnosperms and flowering plants. We are in the process of digitising these collections, much of which has been carried out by volunteers who have taken part in our annual British DataBlitz, creating basic records for the specimens. We have then been able to use smaller funded projects to add images to these records.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s extensive Herbarium numbers nearly three million specimens representing half to two thirds of the world's flora. It is considered a leading botanical collection, and every year many researchers from around the world visit to study our specimens.

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