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

Melica spectabilis Scribn.
purple oniongrass
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Ryan Batten  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #25837)

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Distribution of Melica spectabilis
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Species Information

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Perennial grass from rhizomes, bulbous-based, the bulbs spaced at intervals of 1-3 cm along the rhizomes, remaining attached; stems erect, 30-80 (110) cm tall.
Sheaths usually open for 3-10 mm, but occasionally completely closed, minutely rough; blades smooth (or minutely rough-) to crisp-hairy, 2-4 (5) mm wide, flat to slightly in-rolled; ligules collar-like but generally open in front, usually irregular-jagged, blunt to rounded, smooth, 1-3 mm long.
Inflorescence a narrow panicle 7-15 (22) cm long, the branches slender, erect; spikelets loosely 3- to 8-flowered, somewhat compressed, 9-15 mm long; glumes less than 1/2 the length of the spikelets, the lower ones about 5 mm long, prominently 3-nerved, but with lateral nerves shorter, obscure, the upper glumes 6-7 mm long, 5 (7)-nerved; lemmas smooth, strongly 7- to 11-nerved, blunt, about (6) 7 (8) mm long, unawned; anthers 2-2.5 mm long. vol7_6

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Purple
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Wet to dry meadows and open forests in the montane and subalpine zones; rare in WC and S BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; E to SW AB and S to CO, UT, NV and N CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Melica spectabilis

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) 900 1557 2007
Slope Gradient (%) 0 29 82
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
86 184 320
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 4 8
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: AT(6), ESSF(7), ICH(1), IMA(1), MS(6), SBPS(2), SBS(1)


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 not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Bromelica spectabilis (Scribn.) W.A. Weber
Melica bulbosa var. spectabilis (Scribn.) B. Boivin

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References