false melic
Schizachne purpurascens
(Torrey) Swallen

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plantspikelet and floretillustration

False melic is unquestionably a cool-season grass, with its distribution in the northern United States and along the Rocky Mountains and throughout Canada. In Iowa it is restricted to the northeastern corner (the Paleozoic Plateau; Prior, 1991) where it is found in cool rocky woods and on algific talus slopes. False melic is considered to be rare in Iowa although it is not formally listed.

False melic is characterized by its tufted habit, tubular sheath, long narrow leaves, narrow flowering heads bearing relatively few spikelets, purplish glumes and long-awned lemmas. This species is most similar to the melic grasses (Melica nitens) and the mannagrasses (species of Glyceria).  They all share a tubular sheath, but false melic is easily distinguished from these other grasses by its narrow flowering head with few spikelets, purplish glumes and awned lemmas. 

Etymology: Schizachne from the Greek schizo for split and achne for chaff, referring to the split lemma tip; purpurascens from the Latin for purple-tinged, referring to the color of the glumes.


Plants perennial, tufted, often shortly rhizomatous. Culms 50-80 cm tall. Leaves with the sheaths smooth to minutely rough, the edges fused for most of their length; ligules 0.5-1.2 mm long; blades (4-) 7-33 cm long, 2-5 mm wide, flat or edges inrolled over the upper surface, smooth or the upper surface sometimes with scattered long hairs. Flowering heads 7-12 cm long, 0.5-2 (-3) cm wide, borne well above the leaves, with few spikelets, either all spikelets attached directly to the main axis (racemose) or some branching present at the base (paniculate). Spikelets 10-15 mm long (excluding the awns), with 3-6 florets, breaking off above the glumes and between the florets. Glumes smooth, often purplish, acute; lemmas green, with thin nearly translucent edges, with the base hairy and the tip notched to form two slender teeth, a well developed awn 8-15 mm long arising from between the teeth, the awn somewhat curved or spreading. Chromosome number 2n = 18.


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