E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Melica subulata (Griseb.) Scribn.
Alaska oniongrass
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #6690)

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Distribution of Melica subulata
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Species Information

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Perennial, tufted grass from short, thick rhizomes, bulbous-based, the bulbs clustered; stems erect, 30-80 (110) cm tall.
Sheaths closed nearly or quite to the tops, but often split at maturity, sparsely to copiously spreading-hairy to merely minutely rough-hairy; blades minutely rough- to crisp-hairy or sparsely stiff-hairy on the upper surfaces, minutely rough to smooth beneath, 2-7 mm wide, flat; ligules often closed but frequently split, eroded-jagged to somewhat irregular-jagged, smooth, 1-5 mm long.
Inflorescence a narrow panicle 10-20 cm long, the few branches ascending to erect, but occasionally spreading; spikelets loosely 2- to 5-flowered, somewhat compressed, 12-20 mm long; glumes abruptly sharp-pointed to long-pointed, the lower ones about 5-6.5 mm long, obscurely 3-nerved, the upper glumes 7.5-9 mm long, lightly (5) 7-nerved; lemmas more or less fringed with fine hairs on the margins and nerves below, obscurely 7-nerved, strongly tapering and long-pointed, 9-13 mm long, unawned; anthers about 1.5 (2) mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry meadows and forests in the lowland and montane zones; common on Vancouver Island, frequent on the Queen Charlotte Islands, rare in S BC; N to SE AK, E to SW AB and S to SD, ID, UT and CA; Chile.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Melica subulata

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 283 2268
Slope Gradient (%) 0 17 230
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 197 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(123), CWH(182), ESSF(14), ICH(14), IDF(2), MS(2), SBS(12)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane, South American and Western North American grass distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils; its occurrence decreases with increasing latitude, elevation, and continentality. Scattered in herbaceous understories on water-receiving sites with melanized, base-rich soils. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Melica subulata var. subulata (Griseb.) Scribn.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References