Thursday, February 24, 2022

Well Hello There Cutie Pie: Melinis repens

Masses of Melinis repens (Natal grass) alongside railroad track

In late January, I was walking near the Kissimmee City Hall, when I noticed pinkish-white flowered plants carpeting the side of the nearby railroad track. Being naturally curious, I wandered over to the tracks (making sure there were no incoming trains!) and marveled at the masses of grasses that lined it. Unfortunately, I did not have my macro lens with me, but I took some pics anyways using my 50 mm lens (although I took an inflorescence and later took macros of the spikelets).

Habit of Melinis repens (Natal grass)

I later identified the grass species as Melinis repens (Natal grass), which is originally from Africa and considered an invasive here in Florida, with the potential to push out native species. However, studies have shown that it is somewhat limited to specific microhabitats, and does not seem capable of really invading intact scrub (David and Menges, 2011).

Pretty flowers of M. repens

Using the macro, I could just make out the purple haired glumes  that surround the two closed flowers, one of which is sterile. 

Overall, even though it is non native and might be invasive, I still found the grass to be quite attractive. One of those small grass species with tiny, but pretty flowers. 

Just don't start planting them in your garden and helping them spread!

2-flowered spikelets of M. repens

Literature Citedn

David, A.S., Menges, E.S. Microhabitat preference constrains invasive spread of non-native natal grass (Melinis repens). Biol Invasions 13, 2309 (2011).


Unknown said...

I was surprised to read that this grass has invaded America! I live in KwaZulu-Natal (formerly, Natal) and the Natal Grass (AKA Natal Red Top) is flowering now.

BanyanWanderer said...

It's not so surprising as it may seem. I am not sure how it got here, perhaps as an ornamental. But grasses over long periods have been quite capable of long distance dispersal on their own, so moving as a stowaway is quite possible. I found them very attractive in masses.