Melica spectabilis Scribn.
purple oniongrass
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Ryan Batten     (Photo ID #25837)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Melica spectabilis
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

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

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

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


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)
1557 900 2007
Slope Gradient (%)
29 0 82

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

184 86 320
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
4 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# 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)

Habitat and 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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Bromelica spectabilis (Scribn.) W.A. Weber
Melica bulbosa var. spectabilis (Scribn.) B. Boivin