Plants densely cespitose, with¬out rhizomes. Culms 30-150 (200) cm, glabrous or pubescent, sometimes scabrous. Sheaths closed for less than 1/3 their length, persistent, glabrous or pilose, smooth or scabrous, sometimes scabrous or pilose only distally or on the distal margins; collars usually densely pubescent or with a few hairs at the margins, sometimes glabrous; ligules 0.2-5 mm, usually ciliate, abaxial surfaces puberulent; blades 1-6.5 mm wide, conduplicate, convolute, or flat, 0.5-2(2.5) mm in diameter when convolute, deciduous, abaxial surfaces scabrous or smooth, glabrous or the bases pubescent, adaxial surfaces puberulent to pubescent, veins 9-15(17), ribs (3)5-15(17); abaxial sclerenchyma forming more or less continuous bands, sometimes reduced to small strands; adaxial sclerenchyma sometimes present; girders or pillars present at most veins. Inflorescences 10-25(30) cm, open, with (1)2(4) branches per node; branches spreading and lax. Spikelets 8-18(20) mm, borne towards the ends of the branches, with 3-6(8) florets. Glumes lanceolate, glabrous or sparsely scabrous at the apices; lower glumes (4)4.5-6.7(8) mm; upper glumes (5)6-10 mm; lemmas (7)7.5-11 mm, lanceolate, scabrous, puberulent, sometimes minutely bidentate, acute, usually awned, rarely unawned, awns (1)2-3(4) mm; paleas shorter than to longer than the lemmas, pubescent or glabrous on the margins, intercostal region usually puberulent distally; anthers (3)4-7.5(8.5) mm; ovary apices densely pubescent. 2n = 56.
Festuca californica grows on dry, open slopes and moist streambanks in thickets and open woods, from sea level to 2000 m. Its range extends from Clackamas County, Oregon, to the Sierra Nevada and southern California; it is not known to extend into Mexico. It is the largest species of Festuca in the Flora region.
|1||Culms 30-80(100) cm tall, usually pubescent for more than 5 mm below the nodes; lower sheaths densely retrorsely pubescent; vegetative shoot blades with (3)5-9 ribs, the ribs to about 1/2 as deep as the blade thickness; abaxial sclerenchyma in small strands or forming continuous bands; adaxial sclerenchyma strands present or absent; sclerenchyma pillars rarely formed; girders not developed; spikelets with 3-4(5) florets||Festuca californica subsp. parishii|
|1||Culms 60-150(200) cm tall, glabrous or pubescent for less than 5 mm below the nodes; lower sheaths glabrous or pubescent, if pubescent then usually not densely retrorsely hairy; vegetative shoot blades with 7-15(17) ribs, the ribs usually more than 1/2 as deep as the blade thickness; abaxial sclerenchyma forming a continuous band; adaxial sclerenchyma in strands; sclerenchyma pillars or girders usually associated with most of the veins; spikelets with (3)4-6(8) florets.||> 2|
|2||Ligules 0.2-1(1.2) mm long, ciliate; spikelets (8)13-18(20) mm long||Festuca californica subsp. californica|
|2||Ligules (1)1.5-5 mm long, ciliate or not; spikelets 8-12(17) mm long||Festuca californica subsp. hitchcockiana|