Description from Flora of China
Plant densely tufted; shoots intravaginal. Culms 10–60 cm tall; node 1. Leaf sheaths glabrous or basal leaf sheaths occasionally with trichomes; auricles present as erect swellings or absent; leaf blades filiform, conduplicate, (3–)8–25 cm × 0.3–0.6 mm, margins usually scabrid, veins 5(–7); adaxial to abaxial sclerenchyma strands absent, abaxial sclerenchyma in a continuous ring; ligule (0.1–)0.2–0.5 mm, margin ciliate. Panicle contracted, narrow, 2–8 cm; branches (0.5–)1–2 cm, 1 at lowest node. Spikelets 4–6 mm, greenish, purplish or brown; florets 3–6; glumes glabrous or scabrid below apex; lower glume narrowly lanceolate to lanceolate, 1.8–2.8 mm; upper glume lanceolate or broadly lanceolate, 2.8–3.5 mm; rachilla internodes 0.8–1 mm; lemmas 3–4(–5) mm, punctiform or scabrid; awns 0.5–2 mm; palea keels scabrid. Anthers 1.5–2.2 mm. Ovary apex glabrous. Fl. and fr. Jun–Sep.
This is an extremely polymorphic species with a natural distribution throughout temperate and cold parts of the N hemisphere. It provides good forage on poor upland soils. Numerous variants have been recognized at infraspecific rank, often from different habitats and based on small differences in pubescence, size, proportion of vegetative and floral parts, and other characters. The name Festuca airoides Lamarck, a European segregate, has been applied to plants from the F. ovina complex in China.
Festuca ovina and related species (nos. 43–47) can be distinguished from members of the F. rubra complex as follows: plants densely tufted, without rhizomes; young leaf sheaths with free, overlapping margins; shoots intravaginal; leaf blades with only midrib or also two lateral ribs well defined; leaf sclerenchyma a continuous or broken subepidermal band, or 3 broad strands at midrib and margins.
Alpine meadows, steppe, grassy places in forests; 1600–4400 m. Anhui, Gansu, Guizhou, Jiangsu (cultivated), Jilin, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang [Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Russia; SW Asia (Caucasus), Europe, North America].