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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Alaskan Oniongrass - Melica subulata

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status


External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Melica subulata is scattered throughout central and western Montana. It grows in meadows, harvest units, in open forests, and along creeks and ditches. It is tolerant of disturbances associated with roads, trails, and forestry prescriptions, but also is found in undisturbed habitats.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Alaskan Oniongrass (Melica subulata) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 08/24/2018
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Range Extent

    ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 sq km (~8,000-80,000 sq mi)

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreE - 26-125 4-km2 grid cells

    Number of Populations

    ScoreC - 21 - 80

    Number of Occurrences or Percent Area with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity

    ScoreB - Very few (1-3) occurrences with excellent or good viability or ecological integrity

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreD - Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common


    ScoreD - Low

    CommentNo known threats.

General Description
PLANTS: Stems 60–120 cm tall, loosely bunched (caespitose) or in patches (rhizomatous). Most stems develop from a corm base, whereby corms attach to the rhizomes (Lesica et al. 2012).

LEAVES: Blades 2–10 mm wide with ligules 1–4 mm long (Lesica et al. 2012).

INFLORESCENCE: A narrow panicle or raceme, 10–25 cm long, and with few branches (Lesica et al. 2012).

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
AK to CA, east to WY.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 176

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


Reproductive Characteristics
Spikelets 10–20 mm long and comprised of 4 to 8 florets. Lemmas: mostly awn-tipped (Lesica et al. 2012); 5.5-18 mm long, strongly tapering to the acuminate tips, and often strigose over the prominent 7-9 veins with hairs becoming longer toward the base (FNA 2007). Paleas: one-half to one-third the length of the lemmas (FNA 2007). Glumes: lower glume may be shorter than the upper glume, 4-11.5 mm, and mostly 3-5 veined (FNA 2007).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2007. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 24. Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Poaceae, part 1. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxviii + 911 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Alaskan Oniongrass — Melica subulata.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from