Melica vestita Boiss.
Rhizomatous perennial forming clumps up to 45 cm across; culms 15-50 cm high, erect or ascending. Leaf-blades linear, 5-15 cm long, 2-4 mm wide, flat or inrolled, thin or fleshy, pubescent to glabrous; ligule obtuse to truncate, 0.5-3 (-4.5) mm long, sometimes early deciduous, especially from plants with fleshy, pubescent leaves; sheaths glabrous, scaberulous or retrorsely pubescent. Panicle 3.5-12 cm long, spike-like, few-branched and secund to many-branched and cylindrical. Spikelets gaping, 5.5-10 mm long, pallid or lightly to deeply suffused with purple, with 1-2 fertile florets; lower glume broadly ovate, acute, 2.5-6.5 mm long, a third to three-quarters the length of the upper; upper glume lanceolate, acute, as long as the spikelet; lower fertile lemma elliptic, 4-7.5 mm long, acute, strongly 7-9-nerved, the dorsal surface clothed with tubercle-based hairs 4-5 mm long; second fertile lemma (where present) shorter than the first, glabrous.
Type locality: Iran.
Distribution: Pakistan (Baluchistan, N.W.F.P., Gilgit & Kashmir); throughout the Middle East from Turkey to Afghanistan; Northwest India; southern Russia; pro¬bably also Europe in the Mediterranean region.
In this account, Melica persica includes all species and subspecies to be found in Pakistan that were placed by Bor (1970) in his subsect. Pilosae of sect. Barbatae. The species comprises a complex of variants which are inseparable into distinct taxa using conventional herbarium taxonomic methods. The five species usually recognised (all occuring in Pakistan) were reduced to two species with five subspecies by Bor and are traditionally separated as follows:
Spikelets pallid, 9-11 mm long; lower glume a third to half as long as the upper; inflorescence dense, many-sided:
Sheaths hairy- persica subsp. persica
Sheaths glabrous- persica subsp. inaequiglumis
Spikelets purple, 6-7 mm ling; lower glume
Half as long as upper or longer.
All sheaths glabrous- jacquemontii subsp. jacquemontii
Lower sheaths only hairy; underside
of blade glabrous- jacquemontii subsp. hohenackeri
All sheaths hairy; underside of blade hairy - jacquemontii subsp. canescens
The two variables (length of spikelet and length of lower glume relative to length of spikelet) that are supposed to separate the two species are in fact continuous with neither showing any sign of bimodality. Furthermore, they vary independently, as do panicle density and spikelet colour. Any division of Melica persica on the basis of morphological characters is clearly untenable and the recognition of subspecies of the kind shown above is mostly worthless since the different elements are intermixed throughout the range of the species. The cytology of this group is largely unknown and may well repay investigation. It is probable that the European Melica cupani Guss. and the Russian Melica schischkinii Iljinsk. and Melica atropatana Schischk. should also be included in Melica persica.
The economic value of this grass is not known for certain. Stewart and Santapau report that it is, or may be, poisonous to stock while Helen Crookshank notes that it is heavily grazed. It is a plant of steep slopes and rocky places from 1500-4900 m. Fl. & Fr. Per.: May-June in the South, July-August in the North.