Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Melica racemosa

Melica racemosa is a grass species belonging to the family Poaceae that is endemic to Southern Africa which was described by Carl Peter Thunberg in 1794.

Close up of spikelets of Melica racemosa


Melica racemosa is native to Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa where it is found in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga,


Melica racemosa is perennial and caespitose (forming a dense turf) with culms that are 30–60 centimetres in height.

The leaf-blades are erect, flat and are 4–30 centimetres long by 1.5–5 millimetres wide

The white flowers or spikelets as they are known in grasses are produced from September to April

Melica racemosa grows mostly in pure stands on hills, mountain slopes and east to south facing banks on road reserves.

Melica racemosa inflorescence


Melica racemosa prefers full sun where it will flower best but will also grow well in a half-shady situation where it will not flower in such profusion as it does in the full sun.

Melica racemosa prefers damp situations but will also grow where it is quite dry, it appears to be able to grow on a range of soils including heavy clay soils.

Melica racemosa displays allelopathic properties, which helps suppress weed growth in cultivation.

Allelopathy is a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals known as allelochemicals that influence the growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms.

Corn gluten meal (CGM) is a natural pre-emergence weed control used in turfgrass, which reduces germination of many broadleaf and grass weeds.

I have had Melica racemosa growing very successfully in my grass garden for a number of years during which time it has spread a little out competing some of the grasses but none of the established grassland fobs such as Vernonia capensis and Vernonia natalensis have been affected.

Melica racemosa 


Propagation as with most grasses is best done by seed but it can also be grown vegetatively by subdivision.


Melica racemosa is a very attractive grass in particular when it is in flower which displays characteristics that may make it a good subject for landscaping.

Melica racemosa growing naturally

Staggers grass Melica decumbens a close relative when eaten in large quantities has a narcotic effect on cattle and to a lesser degree on sheep.

Michael Hickman
Landscape Design and Rehabilitation Specialist

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