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California Melicgrass Back to Plant Page
Melica californica

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About California Melicgrass (Melica californica) Melica californica is a species in the Poaceae (Grass) family known by the common name California Melic. It is native to Oregon and California, where it grows in many types of habitats, from mountain forests to open grassland at sea level. In California it is found primarily in the Coast Ranges and Sierra foothills. It is a perennial grass, generally with rhizomes, producing a dense cluster of stems up to about 1.3 meters in maximum height. The flower cluster is a narrow series of purple-banded green spikelets. The flower clusters are attractive even after this grass has gone dormant in late summer or fall. Performs best in part shade with moderate water.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
1 - 4.3 ft (0.3 - 1.3 m)

Max. Width
1 ft (0.3 m)

Upright, Fountain


Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate

Flower Color
Yellow, Green, Purple

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Open or rocky hillsides of central to northern California, often with chaparral, woodland or forest

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
-22' - 10807'

Annual Precip. ?
6.9" - 102.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.13" - 2.98"

Coldest Month ?
24.2° F - 54.0° F

Hottest Month ?
48.5° F - 80.9° F

Humidity ?
0.20 vpd - 29.77 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils as long as drainage is good

Soil PH
5.5 - 7.5

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -10° F

Sunset Zones ?
2, 3, 5, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

Companion Plants
Use as an understory with Oaks (Quercus sp.), evergreens or other trees. Also useful in a meadow-like garden or rock garden with other native grasses, annual wildflowers, herbaceous perennials such as California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), or succulents such as Dudleya spp. or Sedum sp.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
2x/month, 3x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Common uses
Deer Resistant, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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