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Melica nitens (Three-flower melic)
Strickland, Sam C.

Melica nitens

Melica nitens (Scribn.) Nutt. ex Piper

Three-flower Melic, Tall Melicgrass, Threeflower Melicgrass, Melicgrass

Poaceae (Grass Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Small florets, 2 or 3 in number, but 2 most common in the southern parts of its range, which dangle in loose panicles on the slender, arching stems of this 3-5 ft. grass. Leaf blades usually flattened. Spikelets longer than they are wide.

A very graceful-looking, rhizomatous, cool-season grass usually found in part-shade in savannahs and open woodlands. In the northern reaches of its range, it is called Three-Flower Melic, because its florets, appearing in spring, are in groups of three. Further south, including in Texas, the florets are most often in groups of two. However many there are, they are white and showy swaying above the spring green foliage. By summer, the grass has gone to seed, turning tan as the hot months progress. It is somewhat of a summer dormant and is often cut back in early fall, just before the next season's growth begins. In the wild, it is associated with Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) and oak or juniper savannahs.


From the Image Gallery

14 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 5 feet tall.
Flower: Flowers in 4 to 10 inch heads
Fruit: White, tan

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: AR , AZ , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , MD , MN , MO , NC , NE , NM , OH , OK , PA , TN , TX , VA , WI , WV
Native Distribution: PA to extreme s.e. MN & NE, s. to n. VA, w. NC, OK, TX, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon.
Native Habitat: Open woods; rocky grasslands; bluffs; alluvial flats

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil Description: Well-drained, rocky or sandy, acid or calcareous loams
Conditions Comments: The more sun it gets, the quicker it will turn brown and go dormant during hot, dry summers. The more moisture it gets, the more sun it can take.


Use Ornamental: An attractive, shade-loving grass with decorative flowers and seedheads, used as an accent or drift planting.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Propagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Cut back to the base in September or October in Texas.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 1020 Collected Apr 29, 1995 in Bexar County by Mike Fox

1 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium


Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 293 - Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Melica nitens in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Melica nitens in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Melica nitens


Record Modified: 2023-01-25
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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