three-flowered melic
Melica nitens (Scribner) Nutt. ex Piper

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Three-flowered melic is usually found in woodlands, often in rocky areas, in the eastern and central United States. This species can be found on wooded slopes in central and eastern counties in Iowa, but it is considered rare. It flowers from late May to July. Three-flowered melic is the only species of Melica confirmed for Iowa, and is distinctive based on its tubular sheaths, open flowering heads with distant branches, curved or bent spikelet stalks, and straw-colored spikelets with blunt lemmas with parallel veins. The tips of the lowermost two florets are at different levels, and the club-like tip of the spikelet is in a straight line with its stalk. Two-flowered melic (Melica mutica) is reported for Iowa from Union Co., but this remains to be confirmed. It differs from three-flower melic primarily in having the tips of the lowermost two florets at the same level and the club-like tip of the spikelet is usually at an angle to its stalk. Glyceria, a close cousin of Melica, is associated with wetlands and has much smaller glumes and lemmas.

Etymology: Melica from the Latin mel = honey, a classical name for some plant, possibly a species of sorghum with sweet sap; nitens from the Latin for shiny or polished.


Plants shortly rhizomatous. Culms 70-135 cm, basal internodes not swollen. Leaves with the sheaths smooth to minutely rough, the edges fused for most of their length; ligules 2.5-4.3 mm long, tip irregular; blades 11-23.5 cm long, 4-12 mm wide, flat, long hairy at least on the upper surface. Flowering heads 11-27 cm long; branches ascending to horizontal to descending, straight; stalks sharply bent or curved, hairy. Spikelets 9.5-12 mm long, with 2-3 fertile florets, the tips of the first 2 not level; breaking off below the glumes. Glumes and lemmas with thin, almost transparent edges; first glume 5.5-7.5 mm long; second glume 6.5-9 mm long; lemmas smooth to rough near the tip, with 9 or more prominent, nearly parallel veins, these often rough, the tip blunt, unawned; rudiment 2-3 (-5.5) mm long, club-like, in a straight line with its stalk. Chromosome number 2n = 18.


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