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Grass Identification: The Tribes of Grasses – 6 Meliceae

A small tribe with two genera – Melica and Glyceria – in Britain. The inflorescence is a panicle (Glyceria and Melica uniflora) or a raceme (Melica nutans) and the spikelets bear 1-many fertile florets with clumps of sterile lemmas in our Melica species. Glumes persistent, usually much shorter than adjacent lemma in Glyceria, about as long as lemma in Melica. Lemmas papery, 5-9 nerved, and awnless.  The sheath margins are connate in all members of the tribe (i.e. fused).

Glyceria – There are 4 species of Glyceria in Britain all recognizable by their wetland habitats, cylindrical, closed sheath and presence of cross-veins in the leaves.

Glyceria maxima (Reed Sweet-grass) – The tallest of our species by a long way, tall, robust rhizomatous perennial grass reaching 2.5 metres and growing in abundance in swamps and waterside habitats in lowland Britain. The leaves are keeled and have cross-veins (hold to light – htl) and the ligule is membranous with a central point – shaped like the outline of a Mosque – and once seen never forgotten.  The inflorescence is a much branched panicle and the spikelets are oblong 6-10 mm long and with 4-7 florets.


Click on images and again a second time to see more detail.

Melica – An elegant, attractive genus with just two species in Britain, the very common plant of Oak and Ash woodland and Beech woods where it can form extensive soft green carpets and the less common and beautiful Melica nutans (Mountain Melick) of wood edges and limestone pavements in the hills of North-West of Britain.

Melica uniflora (Wood Melick) – A rhizomatous woodland grass with slender culms reaching 70 cm tall, the sheath is glabrous and ending opposite the ligule with a characteristic bristle – once seen never forgotten. The leaf blades are bright green hairy above scabrid beneath and on the margins.  The inflorescence is a very open panicle with a few branches. The spikelets are 4-7.5 mm long with 1 fertile floret, and a clump of sterile lemmas may be visible, the upper glume is 5-nerved and as long as the spikelet.

Next tribe is the Nardeae, watch out, interesting spikelet this way comes!


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