Common Graminoid Species of the Northwest Forest






Terminology | Pictorial

Schizachne purpurascens
False Melic Grass
"Purple Oat Grass"

Poaceae (Grass Family)

False Melic Grass  

General - lender, loosely tufted perennial from rhizomes; stems erect, with curved base, hairless, 40 - 80 cm tall.

Leaves - flat, 1 - 6 mm wide, limp, narrow at base; ligules 0.5 - 1.5 mm long; sheaths closed at first but splitting with maturity.

Flower Cluster - Open, drooping panicle, 6 - 15 cm long, often purplish, few branches (1 - 2 per node); 1 - 2 spikelets per branch, 3 - 5 flowered, 20 - 25 mm long, purplish, bronze or pale; glumes of different lengths, much shorter than lemmas; lemmas lance-shaped, 8 - 10 mm long, with 10 - 15 mm long bent awn from just below 2 teeth at tip, and tuft of silky hairs at base.


Open woods and grassland; widespread across the Northwestern Ontario boreal region, north and west to Great Bear Lake; disjunct in southern Yukon and south-central Alaska.


The Chippewa made wicks for grease lamps by twisting together the soft grasses collected from mouse nests. The strand was then laid across the grease in a birch-wood bowl with one end sticking out to be lit. The genus name Schizachne is derived from the Greek schizo, 'split', and achne, 'chaff', in reference to the 2-cleft tip of the lemma. The species name means 'purplish' or 'becoming purple'; it refers to the reddish to purplish flower clusters and seed heads of this grass.

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