9.02 MELICA L.
Mary E. Barkworth

Plants perennial; cespitose or soboliferous, not or only shortly rhizomatous. Culms (4)9–250 cm, sometimes forming a basal corm; nodes and internodes usually glabrous. Sheaths closed almost to the top; auricles sometimes present; ligules thinly membranous, erose to lacerate, usually glabrous, those of the lower leaves shorter than those of the upper leaves; blades flat or folded, glabrous or hairy, particularly on the adaxial surfaces, sometimes scabrous. Inflorescences terminal panicles; primary branches often appressed; secondary branches appressed or divergent; pedicels either more or less straight or sharply bent below the spikelets, scabrous to strigose distally; disarticulation below the glumes in species with sharply bent pedicels, above the glumes in other species. Spikelets with 1–7 bisexual florets, terminating in a sterile structure, the rudiment, composed of 1–4 sterile florets; rudiments sometimes morphologically distinct from the bisexual florets, sometimes similar but smaller. Glumes membranous or chartaceous, distal margins wide, translucent; lower glumes 1–9-veined; upper glumes 1–11-veined; calluses glabrous; lemmas membranous basally, sometimes becoming coriaceous at maturity, glabrous or with hairs, (4)5–15-veined, usually unawned, sometimes awned, awns to 12 mm, straight; paleas from 1/2 as long as to almost equaling the lemmas, keels usually ciliate; lodicules fused into a single, collarlike structure extending 1/2–2/3 around the base of the ovaries; anthers (2)3. Caryopses usually 2–3 mm, smooth, glabrous, longitudinally furrowed, falling from the floret when mature. x = 9. From the Latin mel, ‘honey’, a classical name for an unknown, but presumably sweet, plant.

Melica includes approximately 80 species, which grow in all temperate regions of the world except Australia, usually in shady woodlands on dry stony slopes (Mejia-Saulés and Bisby 2003). The species are relatively nutritious, but are rarely sufficiently abundant to be important as forage.

Nineteen species of Melica grow in the Flora region. Two European species are grown as ornamentals in North America. Many of the seventeen native species merit such use.
Several proposals have been made for dividing Melica into smaller units. American taxonomists have tended to favor Thurber’s (1880) recognition of two subgenera: Melica and Bromelica. In subg. Melica, the pedicels are straight and disarticulation is above the glumes; in subg. Bromelica, the pedicels are sharply bent and the spikelets disarticulate below the glumes. Hempel (1970) recognized three subgenera in Melica, but his groups do not correspond well to the pattern of morphological variation seen in North America. More recently, Mejia-Saulés and Bisby (2003) examined the variation in lemma silica bodies and hooked papillae within Melica. Their results are not consistent with either Thurber’s or Hempel’s treatment, but provide some support for Papp’s (1928) recognition of two groups, based on the presence or absence of hairs on the lemmas and the compression of the spikelets.

In the following key and descriptions, unless otherwise stated, comments on the panicle branches apply to the longest branches within the panicle; glume widths are measured from side to side, at the widest portion; lemma descriptions are for the lowest floret in the spikelets; and rachilla internode comments apply to the lowest internode in the spikelets.

SELECTED REFERENCES Boyle, W.S. 1945. A cytotaxonomic study of the North American species of Melica. Madroño 8:1–26; Farwell, O.A. 1919. Bromelica (Thurber): A new genus of grasses. Rhodora 21:76–78; Hempel, W. 1970. Taxonomische und chorologische Untersuchungen an Arten von Melica L. subgen. Melica. Feddes Repert. 81:131–145; Hitchcock, A.S. 1951. Manual of the Grasses of the United States, ed. 2, rev. A. Chase. U.S.D.A. Miscellaneous Publication No. 200. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. 1051 pp.; Mejia-Saulés, T. and F.A. Bisby. 2003. Silica bodies and hooked papillae in lemmas of Melica species (Gramineae: Poöideae). Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 143:447–463; Papp, C. 1928. Monographie der Südamerikanischen Arten der Gattung Melica L. Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 25:97–160; Thurber, G. 1880. Melica Linn. Pp. 302–305 in S. Watson. Geological Survey of California: Botany, vol. 2. Little, Brown, Boston, Masssachusetts, U.S.A. 559 pp.

 

For an interactive dichotomous key, click here; the interactive, multientry key is not yet available.

 

1. Spikelets disarticulating below the glumes; pedicels sharply bent just below the spikelets ... 2
1. Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes; pedicels more or less straight ... 8
2. Lemmas with hairs ... 3
2. Lemmas glabrous, sometimes scabridulous to scabrous ... 4
3. Lemmas with hairs on the lower portion of the lemmas, the hairs twisted ... M. montezumae
3. Lemmas with hairs on the marginal veins, the hairs not twisted ... M. ciliata
4. Rudiments acute to acuminate, similar to but smaller than the bisexual florets ... 5
4. Rudiments clublike, not resembling the bisexual florets ... 6
5. Spikelets broadly V-shaped when mature, 5–13 mm wide; upper glumes 6–18 mm long ... M. stricta
5. Spikelets parallel-sided when mature, 1.5–5 mm wide; upper glumes 5–8 mm long ... M. porteri
6. Rudiments at an angle to the rachilla; panicle branches with 2–5 spikelets ... M. mutica
6. Rudiments in a straight line with the rachilla; panicle branches with 5–20 spikelets ... 7
7. Panicle branches often divergent to reflexed; glumes unequal, lower glumes shorter and more ovate than the upper glumes ... M. nitens
7. Panicle branches strongly ascending to appressed; glumes subequal in length and similar in shape ... M. altissima
8. Rudiments truncate to acute, not resembling the lowest florets ... 9
8. Rudiments tapering, smaller than but otherwise similar to the lowest florets in shape ... 13
9. Bisexual florets 1(2); paleas almost as long as the lemmas ... 10
9. Bisexual florets 2–7; paleas 1/2–3/4 the length of the lemmas ... 11
10. Rudiments shorter than the terminal rachilla internode; bisexual lemmas scabridulous, sometimes hairy ... M. torreyana
10. Rudiments longer than the terminal rachilla internode; bisexual lemmas glabrous, sometimes scabrous ... M. imperfecta
11. Culm bases not forming distinct corms ... M. californica
11. Culm bases forming distinct corms ... 12
12. Glumes usually less than 1/2 as long as the spikelets; ligules 0.1–2 mm long; corms connected to the rhizomes by a rootlike structure ... M. spectabilis (in part)
12. Glumes from (1/2)2/3 as long as to equaling the spikelets; ligules 2–6 mm long; corms almost sessile on the rhizomes ... M. bulbosa (in part)
13. Lemmas awned ... 14
13. Lemmas unawned ... 17
14. Awns shorter than 3 mm ... 15
14. Awns 3–12 mm long ... 16
15. Panicle branches appressed; lemmas usually with 0.7–1.3 mm hairs on the margins ... M. harfordii (in part)
15. Panicle branches widespread to reflexed; lemmas glabrous ... M. geyeri (in part)
16. Panicle branches 4–6 cm long, appressed or ascending; blades 2–6 mm wide ... M. aristata
16. Panicle branches 7–11 cm long, spreading to reflexed; blades 5–12 mm wide ... M. smithii
17. Lemmas strongly tapering and acuminate, the veins usually hairy ... M. subulata
17. Lemmas acute to obtuse, the veins hairy or not ... 18
18. Lemmas pubescent, the hairs on the marginal veins clearly longer than the hairs elsewhere ... M. harfordii (in part)
18. Lemmas glabrous, scabrous, or pubescent, never with clearly longer hairs on the marginal veins ... 19
19. Rachilla internodes swollen when fresh, wrinkled when dry ... M. fugax
19. Rachilla internodes not swollen when fresh, not wrinkled when dry ... 20
20. Panicle branches with 5–15 spikelets; paleas about 1/2 as long as the lemmas; culms not forming corms ... M. frutescens
20. Panicle branches with 1–6 spikelets; paleas from 2/3 as long as to equaling the lemmas; culms forming corms ... 21
21. Panicle branches 3–11 cm long, divergent to reflexed, flexuous; lowest rachilla internodes 2–3 mm long ... M. geyeri (in part)
21. Panicle branches 2–6.5 cm long, usually appressed to ascending, straight, sometimes strongly divergent and flexuous; lowest rachilla internodes 1–2 mm long ... 22
22. Ligules 0.1–2 mm long; glumes usually less than 1/2 the length of the spikelets; corms not attached directly to the rhizomes ... M. spectabilis (in part)
22. Ligules 2–6 mm long; glumes from (1/2)2/3 as long as to equaling the spikelets; corms almost sessile, directly attached to the rhizomes ... M. bulbosa (in part)

 

1. Melica torreyana Scribn.
Torrey’s Melic

Plants densely cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 30–100 cm, not forming corms; internodes smooth. Sheaths glabrous or sparsely pilose, sometimes pilose only at the throat, sometimes scabridulous; ligules 1–5 mm; blades 1–2.5 mm wide, some-times pilose on both surfaces, sometimes scabridulous. Panicles 6–25 cm; branches 1–5 cm, usually appressed, occasionally divergent, with 5–37 spikelets; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 3.5–7 mm, with 1(2) bisexual florets. Lower glumes 3–5 mm long, about 1 mm wide, 1–5-veined; upper glumes 3.3–7 mm long, 1–2 mm wide, 3–5-veined; lemmas 3.5–6 mm, scabridulous, sometimes hairy, distal hairs longer than those below, 7-veined, veins inconspicuous, apices rounded to emarginate, unawned or awned, awns 1–2 mm; paleas slightly shorter than the lemmas; anthers 1.5–2.5 mm; rudiments 0.5–4 mm, clearly distinct from the bisexual florets, shorter than the terminal rachilla internode, truncate to acute. 2n = 18.

Melica torreyana grows from sea level to 1200 m, in thickets and woods in California. It is common throughout chaparral areas and coniferous forests but, on serpentine soils, grows only in shady locations. The shape and size of the rudiments make M. torreyana unique among the species found in North America. Boyle (1945) obtained vigorous, almost completely sterile hybrids between M. imperfecta and M. torreyana, but found no examples of natural hybrids.

 

2. Melica imperfecta Trin.
Little California Melic

Plants densely cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 35–120 cm, not forming corms; internodes scabridulous immediately above the nodes. Sheaths glabrous or pilose; ligules 0.8–6.5 mm; blades 1–6 mm wide, abaxial surfaces glabrous or puberulent, adaxial surfaces with hairs. Panicles 5–36 cm; branches 2.5–9 cm, appressed to reflexed, straight or flexuous, with 5–30 spikelets; pedicels not sharply bent; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 3–7 mm, with 1(2) bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 0.3–0.6 mm. Lower glumes 2–5 mm long, 1–2 mm wide, 1-veined; upper glumes 2.5–6 mm long, 1.5–2.5 mm wide, 1-veined; lemmas 3–7 mm, glabrous, sometimes scabrous, with 7+ veins, veins prominent, apices rounded to acute, unawned; paleas almost as long as the lemmas; anthers 1.5–2.5 mm; rudiments 1–4 mm, not resembling the lower florets, longer and thicker than the terminal rachilla internode, truncate to obtuse. 2n = 18.

Melica imperfecta grows from sea level to 1500 m, on stable coastal dunes, dry, rocky slopes, and in open woods, from California and southern Nevada south to Baja California, Mexico. Plants vary with respect to size, panicle shape, and pubescence, but no infraspecific taxa merit recognition. Boyle (1945) obtained vigorous, almost completely sterile hybrids between M. imperfecta and both M. torreyana and M. californica, but found no examples of natural hybrids.

 

3. Melica spectabilis Scribn.
Purple Oniongrass

Plants loosely cespitose, rhizom-atous. Culms 45–100 cm, form-ing corms, corms connected to the rhizomes by a rootlike, 10–30 mm structure, which usually remains attached to the corm; internodes smooth. Sheaths usu-ally glabrous, often pilose at the throat and collar; ligules 0.1–2 mm; blades 2–5 mm wide, abaxial surfaces scabridulous over the veins, adaxial surfaces usually glabrous. Panicles 5–26 cm; branches 2–5 cm, usually appressed, sometimes divergent and flexuous, with 2–3 spikelets; pedicels not sharply bent; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 7–19 mm, with 3–7 bisexual florets, base of the distal florets concealed at anthesis; rachilla internodes 1–2 mm, not swollen when fresh, not wrinkled when dry. Glumes usually less than 1/2 the length of the spikelets; lower glumes 3.5–6.4 mm long, 1.5–3 mm wide, 1–3-veined; upper glumes 5–7 mm long, 2.3–3.5 mm wide, 5–7-veined; lemmas 6–9 mm, glabrous, scabridulous, 5–11-veined, veins incon-spicuous, apices rounded to acute, unawned; paleas about 2/3 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1.5–3 mm; rudiments 1.5–3.5 mm, acute, distinct from the bisexual florets, sometimes surrounded by a small sterile floret similar in shape to the bisexual florets. 2n = 18.

Melica spectabilis grows in moist meadows, flats, and open woods, from 1200–2600 m, primarily in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. It is often confused with M. bulbosa, differing in its shorter glumes, “tailed” corm, and the more marked and evenly spaced purplish bands of its spikelets.

 

4. Melica bulbosa Geyer ex Porter & J.M. Coult.
Oniongrass

Plants loosely cespitose, rhizom-atous. Culms 29–100 cm, form-ing corms, corms almost sessile on the connecting rhizomes; internodes scabridulous above the nodes. Sheaths usually scab-ridulous, sometimes sparsely pilose; ligules 2–6 mm; blades 1.5–5 mm wide, abaxial surfaces scabridulous, adaxial surfaces with hairs. Panicles 7–30 cm; branches 2–6.5 cm, appressed, usually straight, with 1–5 spikelets; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 6–24 mm, with 4–7 bisexual florets, base of the distal florets concealed at anthesis; rachilla internodes 1–2 mm, not swollen when fresh, not wrinkled when dry. Glumes from (1/2)2/3 as long as to equaling the spikelets; lower glumes 5.5–10.5 mm long, 2–3 mm wide, 3–5-veined; upper glumes 6–14 mm long, 2.3–3.5 mm wide, 5–7-veined; lemmas 6–12 mm, glabrous, smooth or scabrous, 7–11-veined, veins prominent, apices emarginate to acute, unawned; paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 3, 1.5–4 mm; rudiments 1.5–5 mm, truncate to tapering, sometimes resembling the bisexual florets in shape. 2n = 18.

Melica bulbosa grows from 1370–3400 m, mostly in open woods on dry, well-drained slopes and along streams. It is restricted to the western half of the Flora region. Two records from Texas, in Jeff Davis and Sutton counties, have not been verified.

Melica bulbosa differs from M. spectabilis in its sessile corm and longer glumes. In addition, in M. bulbosa the spikelets have purplish bands which appear to be concentrated towards the apices; in M. spectabilis the bands appear more regularly spaced. It differs from M. californica in its more narrowly acute spikelets, more strongly colored lemmas, and lack of corms, and from M. fugax in not having swollen rachilla internodes.

 

5. Melica frutescens Scribn.
Woody Melic

Plants densely cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 60–200 cm, not forming corms, often branched from the lower nodes; internodes smooth. Sheaths glab-rous, sometimes scabridulous, sometimes purplish; ligules 2.5–9 mm; blades 2–5 mm wide, abaxial sufaces scabridulous, adaxial surfaces puberulent. Panicles 12–40 cm; branches 3.5–9 cm, appressed, with 5–15 spikelets; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 9–18 mm, with 3–5 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 1–1.3 mm, not swollen when fresh, not wrinkled when dry. Lower glumes 7–12 mm long, 2–3 mm wide, 5–7-veined; upper glumes 8–15 mm long, 2.5–3.5 mm wide, 5–7-veined; lemmas 8–11 mm, glabrous, chartaceous for the distal 1/3 or more, 7–9-veined, sometimes purplish basally, veins incon-spicuous, apices rounded to acute, unawned; paleas about 1/2 the length of the lemmas; anthers 3, 1–2 mm; rudiments 2–6 mm, blunt, enclosed in empty lemmas resembling those of the bisexual florets. 2n = 18.

Melica frutescens grows from 300–1500 m in the dry hills and canyons of southern California, Arizona, and adjacent Mexico. Boyle (1945) stated that its seeds remain viable longer than those of other North American species of Melica; he gave no information on how long.

 

6. Melica californica Scribn.
California Melic

Plants densely cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 50–130 cm, not forming corms; lower nodes strigose; internodes usu-ally smooth, sometimes puber-ulent below the nodes, lower 2–3 internodes usually swollen. Sheaths glabrous or pilose; ligules 1.5–4 mm; blades 1.5–5 mm wide, strigose on both surfaces. Panicles 4–30 cm; branches 3–6 cm, appressed, straight, with 4–15 spikelets; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 5–15 mm, with 2–5 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 1.1–1.6 mm. Lower glumes 3.5–12 mm long, 2.5–3 mm wide, 3–5-veined; upper glumes 5–13 mm long, 2–2.5 mm wide, 5–7-veined; lemmas 5–9 mm, glabrous, smooth to scabrous, 7–9-veined, veins inconspicuous, apices rounded to broadly acute, unawned; paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 3, 1.8–3 mm; rudiments 1.4–3 mm, clublike, not resembling the bisexual florets, truncate to acute. 2n = 18.

Melica californica grows from sea level to 2100 m, in a wide range of habitats, from dry, rocky, exposed hillsides to moist woods. Its range extends from Oregon to California. It differs from M. bulbosa in its more obtuse spikelets and less strongly colored lemmas, as well as in not having corms.

Melica californica var. nevadensis Boyle supposedly differs from var. californica in having shorter spikelets (averaging 8, rather than 10, mm), more acute glumes and lemmas, blunter rudiments, and in being restricted to the lower Sierra Nevada; the two varieties intergrade, both morphologically and geographically.

Boyle (1945) obtained vigorous sterile hybrids from crosses between M. californica and M. imperfecta, but found no natural hybrids.

 

7. Melica harfordii Bol.
Harford Melic

Plants cespitose, not rhizom-atous. Culms 35–120 cm, not forming corms; internodes smooth. Sheaths glabrous or pilose, often most pilose at the throat and collar; ligules 0.5–1.5 mm; blades 1.5–4.5 mm wide, abaxial surfaces smooth, adaxial surfaces scab-ridulous, glabrous or puberulent. Panicles 6–25 cm; branches 3–8 cm, appressed, with 2–6 spikelets; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 7–20 mm, with 2–6 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 2–2.4 mm. Glumes obtuse to subacute; lower glumes 4–10 mm long, 1.5–2.5 mm wide, 3–5-veined; upper glumes 5–11 mm long, 1.8–2.5 mm wide, 5–7-veined; lemmas 6–16 mm, hairy, hairs to 0.75 mm on the back, 0.7–1.3 mm on the margins, 9–11-veined, veins inconspicuous, apices mucronate to rounded, usually awned, awns 0.5–3 mm, fragile; paleas about 3/4 as long as to nearly equaling the length of the lemmas; anthers 3, 2.2–4 mm; rudiments 2.5–6 mm, tapering, resembling the bisexual florets. Caryopses about 5 mm. 2n = 18.

Melica harfordii grows primarily in the Pacific coast ranges from Washington to California, as well as in the Sierra Nevada and a few other inland locations, usually on dry slopes or in dry, open woods. The awns in M. harfordii often escape attention because they do not always extend beyond the lemma.

 

8. Melica geyeri Munro Munro
Geyer’s Oniongrass

Plants cespitose, rhizomatous. Culms 65–200 cm, glabrous, forming corms, corms sessile on the rhizomes; internodes smooth. Sheaths scabridulous to scab-rous, sometimes sparsely pilose, particularly at the throat and collar; ligules 0.8–5 mm; blades 2–8 mm wide, abaxial surfaces scabridulous, adaxial surfaces with hairs. Panicles 10–30 cm; branches 3–11 cm, divergent to reflexed, flexuous, with 1–6 spikelets; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 8–24 mm, with 4–7 bisexual florets, base of the distal florets exposed at anthesis; rachilla internodes 2–3 mm, not swollen when fresh, not wrinkled when dry. Glumes usually less than 1/2 the length of the spikelets; lower glumes 3.5–7 mm long, 1.5–2 mm wide, 5–9-veined; upper glumes 5–11 mm long, 2–2.5 mm wide, 5–11-veined; lemmas 7.5–12.5 mm, glabrous or scabrous, 7-veined, veins inconspicuous, apices rounded to acute, sometimes toothed, unawned or awned, awns to 2 mm; paleas about as long as the lemmas; anthers 3, 2.5–4 mm; rudiments 3–7 mm, tapering, resembling the bisexual florets. Caryopses 3–4 mm. 2n = 18.

Melica geyeri grows to 2000 m, primarily in dry, open woods, in Oregon and California. Its large size and open panicle distinguish M. geyeri from most other North American species of Melica.

1. Lemma apices awned, awns 0.5–2 mm long ... var. aristulata
1. Lemma apices unawned ... var. geyeri

 

Melica geyeri var. aristulata J.T. Howell

Lemmas toothed, awned from between the teeth, awns 0.5–2 mm.

Melica geyeri var. aristulata grows in Marin, and possibly Shasta, counties in California.

 

Melica geyeri Munro var. geyeri

Lemmas apices obtuse, unawned.

Melica geyeri var. geyeri grows throughout the range of the species.

 

9. Melica aristata Thurb. ex Bol.
Awned Melic

Plants cespitose, not rhizom-atous. Culms 40–120 cm, not forming corms; internodes smooth. Sheaths glabrous, scab-rous, sometimes sparsely pilose; ligules 2.5–5 mm; blades 5.5–15 cm long, 2–6 mm wide, often sparsely pilose on both surfaces. Panicles 10–26 cm; branches 4–6 cm, appressed or strongly ascending, with 1–4 spikelets per branch; pedicels not sharply bent; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 11–21 mm, with (2)3–5 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 3.4–3.8 mm. Lower glumes 9–11 mm long, 1.5–2.5 mm wide, 3–5-veined; upper glumes 11–12 mm long, 2–3 mm wide, 5–7-veined; lemmas 8–13 mm, with 0.3–0.6 mm hairs on the marginal veins, glabrous or with hairs to 0.1 mm elsewhere, 5–7-veined, veins prominent, apices bifid to emarginate, awned from the sinuses, awns 5–12 mm; paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 2, 2–3 mm; rudiments 2.5–6 mm, tapering, resembling the bisexual florets. Caryopses 5–6 mm. 2n = 18.

Melica aristata grows from 1000–3000 m in open fir and pine woods. It is restricted to the Flora region, being native from Washington to southern California. It has also been found in Kentucky, possibly as an introduction from contaminated seed. Melica aristata is easily distinguished from most species of Melica by its conspicuous awns.

 

10. Melica smithii (Porter ex A. Gray) Vasey
Smith’s Melic

Plants loosely cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 60–160 cm, thickened basally, some-times appearing cormous; internodes sometimes pubescent below the nodes. Sheaths usually glabrous, sometimes pilose or retrorsely scabrous, particularly at the throat, veins often prominent; ligules 2–4 mm; blades 15–25 cm long, 5–12 mm wide, both surfaces usually scabrid-ulous, glabrous, sometimes the adaxial surfaces with hairs. Panicles 12–30 cm; branches 7–11 cm, spreading to reflexed, with 4–7 spikelets, spikelets restricted to the distal portion, axils frequently with brownish pulvini; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 12–18 mm, with 3–5 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 2.5–3 mm. Lower glumes 4.5–7 mm long, 1–1.5 mm wide, 1–3-veined; upper glumes 6.5–9 mm long, 1.2–1.8 mm wide, 3–5-veined; lemmas 9.5–12 mm, glabrous or scabrous, 7-veined, apices bifid to emarginate, awned, awns 3–10 mm; paleas about 2/3 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1.3–2.5 mm; rudiments 3.5–6 mm, tapering, resembling the bisexual florets. 2n = unknown.

Melica smithii grows in cool, moist woods from British Columbia and Alberta south to Oregon and Wyoming and, as a disjunct, from the Great Lakes region to western Quebec. It often forms colonies in the eastern portion of its range. Its disjunct distribution pattern is unusual among North America’s grasses.

 

11. Melica subulata (Griseb.) Scribn.
Alaskan Oniongrass, Tapered Oniongrass

Plants cespitose, rhizomatous. Culms 55–125 cm, forming corms, corms attached to the rhizomes; internodes scabrid-ulous basally. Sheaths usually scabridulous, sometimes glabrous or pilose; ligules 0.4–5 mm, to 1.5 mm on the lower leaves, to 5 mm on the upper leaves; blades 2–10 mm wide, abaxial surfaces smooth or scabridulous, adaxial surfaces scabridulous, glabrous or with hairs. Panicles 8–25 cm, lax; branches 1.7–9 cm, usually appressed to ascending, occasionally divergent, with 1–5 spikelets; pedicels not sharply bent; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 10–28 mm, with 2–5 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 1.8–2 mm. Lower glumes 4–8 mm long, 1.3–2.2 mm wide, 1–3-veined; upper glumes 5.5–11.5 mm long, 2–3 mm wide, 3–5-veined; lemmas 5.5–18 mm, usually strigose over the veins, hairs longest towards the base, 7–9-veined, veins prominent, apices strongly tapering and acuminate, unawned; paleas 1/2–3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1.5–2.5 mm; rudiments 4–9 mm, tapering, resembling the bisexual florets. Caryopses 4–5 mm. 2n = 18.

Melica subulata grows from sea level to 2300 m in mesic, shady woods. Its range extends from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska through British Columbia to California, east to Lawrence County, South Dakota, and into Colorado.

 

12. Melica fugax Bol.
Little Melic

Plants cespitose, not rhizom-atous. Culms 10–60 cm, forming corms; internodes smooth or scabridulous. Sheaths scabrid-ulous to scabrous; ligules 0.5–2.6 mm; blades 1.2–5 mm wide, sometimes pilose on both surfaces. Panicles 4.5–18 cm; branches 0.8–4 cm, appressed to ascending, with 1–5 spikelets; pedicels straight. Spikelets 4–17 mm, with 2–5 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 2.1–2.3 mm, swollen when fresh, wrinkled when dry; disarticulation above the glumes. Lower glumes 3–5 mm long, 1.5–2.5 mm wide, 1–3-veined; upper glumes 3.5–7 mm long, 2.5–3.5 mm wide, 5-veined; lemmas 4–7 mm, glabrous or scabrous, 4–11-veined, veins inconspicuous, apices rounded to acute, unawned; paleas almost as long as the lemmas; anthers 3, 1–2 mm; rudiments 1.5–3.5 mm, tapering, resembling the bisexual florets. 2n = 18.

Melica fugax grows at elevations to 2200 m on dry, open flats, hillsides, and woods, from British Columbia to California and east to Idaho and Nevada. It is usually found on soils of volcanic origin, and rarely below 1300 m.

Melica fugax is often confused with M. bulbosa, but its rachilla internodes are unmistakable and unique among the species in the Flora region, being swollen when fresh and wrinkled when dry. One specimen, C.L. Hitchcock 15521 [WTU 114265] from Elmore County, Idaho, appears to be a hybrid. It has shrunken caryopses and combines the rachilla of M. fugax with the lemma pubescence, size, and overall appearance of M. subulata, but lacks corms.

 

13. Melica stricta Bol.
Rock Melic

Plants densely cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 9–85 cm, not forming corms; basal internodes often thickened; internodes smooth. Sheaths scabridulous; ligules 2.5–5 mm; blades 1.5–5 mm wide, abaxial surfaces glabrous, scabridulous, adaxial surfaces sometimes strigose, sometimes glabrous or scabridulous. Panicles 3–30 cm; branches 0.5–10 cm, appressed, with 1–5 spikelets; pedicels sharply bent below the spikelets; disarticulation below the glumes. Spikelets 6–23 mm long, 5–13 mm wide, broadly V-shaped when mature, with 2–4 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 1.8–2.1 mm. Lower glumes 6–16 mm long, 3.5–5 mm wide, 4–7-veined; upper glumes 6–18 mm long, 3–5 mm wide, 5–9-veined; lemmas 6–16 mm, glabrous, scabridulous, 5–9-veined, veins inconspicuous, apices acute, unawned; paleas 1/2–3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1–3 mm; rudiments 2–7 mm, resembling the lower florets, acute to acuminate. Caryopses 4–5 mm. 2n = 18.

Melica stricta grows from 1200–3350 m on rocky, often dry slopes, sometimes in alpine habitats. Its range extends from Oregon and California to Utah. Boyle (1945) recognized two varieties, more on their marked geographical separation than on their morphological divergence.

1. Paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 2–3 mm long ... var. albicaulis
1. Paleas about 1/2 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1–2 mm long ... var. stricta

 

Melica stricta var. albicaulis Boyle

Sheaths of the lower portion pale. Glumes at least 4 mm wide; paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 2–3 mm.

Melica stricta var. albicaulis is restricted to the mountains of southern California.

 

Melica stricta Bol. var. stricta

Sheaths usually purplish, becoming dark brown. Glumes 3–4 mm wide; paleas about 1/2 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1–2 mm.

Melica stricta var. stricta is the more widespread of the two varieties, growing throughout the range of the species except in the mountains of southern California.

 

14. Melica porteri Scribn.
Porter’s Melic

Plants not or loosely cespitose, shortly rhizomatous. Culms 55–100 cm, not forming corms; internodes smooth, basal inter-nodes not thickened. Sheaths often scabrous on the keels, otherwise smooth; ligules 1–7 mm; blades 2–5 mm wide, both surfaces glabrous, scabridulous. Panicles 13–25 cm; branches 1–9 cm, straight and appressed or flexible and ascending to strongly divergent, with 1–12 spikelets; pedicels sharply bent below the spikelets; disarticulation below the glumes. Spikelets 8–16 mm long, 1.5–5 mm wide, parallel-sided when mature, with 2–5 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 1.9–2.1 mm. Glumes green, pale, or purplish-tinged; lower glumes 3.5–6 mm long, 2–3 mm wide, 3–5-veined; upper glumes 5–8 mm long, 2–3 mm wide, 5-veined; lemmas 6–10 mm, glabrous, chartaceous on the distal 1/3, 5–11-veined, veins conspicuous, apices rounded to acute, unawned; paleas about 2/3 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1–2.5 mm; rudiments 1.8–5 mm, acute to acuminate, resembling the bisexual florets. 2n = 18.

Melica porteri grows on rocky slopes and in open woods, often near streams. It grows from Colorado and Arizona to central Texas and northern Mexico. Living plants are sometimes confused with Bouteloua curtipendula; the similarity is superficial.

1. Panicle branches flexible, ascending to strongly divergent; glumes purplish-tinged ... var. laxa
1. Panicle branches straight, appressed; glumes green or pale ... var. porteri

 

Melica porteri var. laxa Boyle

Panicles open; branches flexible, ascending to patent. Glumes purplish-tinged.

Melica porteri var. laxa grows from southern Arizona east to the Chisos Mountains, Texas, and south into northern Mexico.

 

Melica porteri Scribn. var. porteri

Panicles narrow; branches straight, appressed. Glumes green or pale.

Melica porteri var. porteri grows from northern Colorado to Arizona and central Texas, and south to the Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico.

 

15. Melica montezumae Piper
Montezuma Melic

Plants cespitose, not rhizo-matous. Culms 14–100 cm, not forming corms; internodes smooth. Sheaths glabrous or scabrous; ligules 2.5–7 mm; blades 1.2–3 mm wide, abaxial surfaces glabrous, scabridulous, adaxial surfaces puberulent. Panicles 5–25 cm; branches 1–5 cm, appressed to reflexed, straight, with 2–9 spikelets; pedicels sharply bent below the spikelets; disarticulation below the glumes. Spikelets 6–8 mm, with 1 bisexual floret. Lower glumes 5.5–8 mm long, 1.8–3 mm wide, 5-veined; upper glumes 5–8 mm long, 0.7–1.5 mm wide, 3–5-veined; lemmas 4.5–8 mm, 9–15-veined, veins prominent, tuberculate, proximal portion with flat, twisted hairs, distal portion glabrous, chartaceous, apices emarginate to acute, unawned; paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1.5–3 mm; rudiments 2–3 mm, obovoid or obconic, clublike, not resembling the bisexual florets. 2n = 18.

Melica montezumae grows primarily in shady locations in the mountains of western Texas and adjacent Mexico.

 

16. Melica mutica Walter
Two-Flower Melic

Plants not or loosely cespitose, shortly rhizomatous. Culms 45–100 cm, not forming corms; internodes sometimes scabrid-ulous above the nodes. Sheaths glabrous or pilose; ligules 0.5–1.5 mm; blades 1.8–6 mm wide, abaxial surfaces glabrous, scabridulous, adaxial surfaces with hairs. Panicles 4–25 cm; branches 3.5–6 cm, appressed to spreading, straight, with 2–5 spikelets; pedicels sharply bent below the spikelets; disarticulation below the glumes. Spikelets 6–11 mm, with (1)2(4) bisexual florets, floret apices at about the same level; rachilla internodes 1.5–1.7 mm. Lower glumes 4.5–8 mm long, 3–4 mm wide, 5–7-veined; upper glumes 5–9 mm long, 2.5–3.5 mm wide, 5–6-veined; lemmas 6–11 mm, glabrous or scabrous, indurate, 9–11-veined, veins prominent, apices rounded to acute, unawned; paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1–3 mm; rudiments 2–3 mm, clublike, not resembling the bisexual florets, at a sharp angle to the rachilla. 2n = 18.

Melica mutica grows in moist or dry areas in open woods and thickets, from Iowa and Texas east to Maryland and Florida. It is unique among the North American species in having a clublike rudiment at a sharp angle to the rachilla.

 

17. Melica nitens (Scribn.) Nutt. ex Piper
Three-Flower Melic

Plants not or loosely cespitose, shortly rhizomatous. Culms 55–130 cm, not forming corms; internodes smooth. Sheaths glabrous or scabridulous; ligules 1–6.5 mm; blades 3.5–11 mm wide, flat, abaxial surfaces smooth or scabridulous, adaxial surfaces scabridulous. Panicles 9–26 cm; branches 3.5–6 cm, often divergent to reflexed, straight, with 5–20 spikelets; pedicels sharply bent and hairy below the spikelets; disarticulation below the glumes. Spikelets 8–12 mm, with 2–3(4) bisexual florets, apices of the lowest 2 florets not at the same level; rachilla internodes 2.3–2.4 mm. Glumes unequal; lower glumes 5–9 mm long, 3.5–4.5 mm wide, more ovate than the upper glumes, 3–9-veined; upper glumes 6–11 mm long, 2.5–3.5 mm wide, 3–7-veined; lemmas 6.5–11.5 mm, glabrous or scabrous, somewhat indurate, with 9+ veins, veins prominent, apices rounded, unawned; paleas about 3/4 the length of the lemmas; anthers 1.7–3.2 mm; rudiments 2–3 mm, clublike, not resembling the bisexual florets, in a straight line with the rachilla. 2n = 18.

Melica nitens grows in dry to moist woodlands, often in rocky areas with rich soil. It grows primarily from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and southwest to Texas.

 

18. Melica ciliata L.
Ciliate Melic, Silky-Spike Melic, Hairy Melic

Plants cespitose, sometimes shortly rhizomatous. Culms 20–60(100) cm, not forming corms. Sheaths glabrous or shortly and sparsely pubescent; ligules 1–4 mm; blades 7–15 cm long, 1–4 mm wide, usually involute. Panicles 4–8(25) cm, narrowly cylindrical, lax, pale; branches 1.5–4 cm, appressed to ascending, with 3–12(15) spikelets; pedicels sharply bent below the spikelets; disarticulation below the glumes. Spikelets 6–8 mm, with 1 bisexual floret, sometimes purple-tinged. Lower glumes 4–6 mm long, 1.5–2.5 mm wide, ovate, 1–5-veined, acute; upper glumes 6–8 mm long, about 1.5 mm wide, lanceolate, acute to acuminate; lemmas 4–6.5 mm, lanceolate, 7–9-veined, papillose, margins and marginal veins pubescent, hairs 3.5–5 mm, not twisted; rudiments 1–1.7 mm, ovoid, not resembling the bisexual florets. 2n = 18, 36.

Melica ciliata is grown as an ornamental in North America and is not known to have escaped. It is native to Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia, where it grows on damp to somewhat dry soils.

 

19. Melica altissima L.
Tall Melic, Siberian Melic

Plants loosely cespitose. Culms 60–250 cm, not forming corms, scabrous below the panicles. Sheaths retrorsely scabridulous; ligules 3–5 mm; blades to 20 cm long, 5–15 mm wide, flat, lax. Panicles 10–20 cm long, 1–2(5) cm wide, cylindrical, pale or purplish; branches about 3 cm, strongly ascending to appressed, often with 15+ spikelets; pedicels sharply bent below the spikelets; disarticulation below the glumes. Spikelets 7–11 mm, with 1–2(3) bisexual florets. Glumes subequal in length and similar in shape, 7–10.5 mm long, 3–4 mm wide, glabrous, ovate-elliptic, obtuse to acute, ivory or purple, 7-veined; lemmas 7–11 mm, glabrous, scabridulous, 9–13-veined, scarious, apices acute; paleas about 2/3the length of the lemmas; rudiments 2.5–3 mm, pyriform. Caryopses about 3 mm. 2n = 18.

Melica altissima is native to Eurasia. It is grown as an ornamental in North America and is reported to have escaped and become established in Oklahoma and Ontario. In its native region, it grows on the moist soils of shrubby thickets and forest edges, and on rocky slopes. Plants with dark purple glumes and lemmas can be called M. altissima var. atropurpurea Host.