Nassella spp. - Melica spp. Herbaceous Alliance
Needle grass - Melic grass grassland

USDA Ecological Section Map

Summary Information

  • Primary Life FormHerb
  • Elevation0-1700 m
  • State RarityS3
  • Global RarityG3
  • DistributionUSA: CA. Baja California, Mexico (NatureServe, Calflora, NRCS)
  • Endemic to CaliforniaNo
  • Endemic to California Floristic Province and DesertsYes
  • Date Added2016/12/02

Characteristic Species

Melica californica, Melica torreyana, Nassella cernua, Nassella lepida and/or Nassella pulchra is dominant or characteristically present in the herbaceous layer with other perennial grasses and herbs including Aristida ternipes, Astragalus spp., Avena spp., Bromus spp., Calamagrostis koelerioides, Calochortus spp., Calystegia spp., Chlorogalum pomeridianum, Clarkia spp., Corethrogyne filaginifolia, Croton setigerus, Cryptantha spp., Daucus pusillus, Dichelostemma capitatum, Elymus glaucus, Eriogonum spp., Erodium spp., Eschscholzia californica, Festuca californica, Hirschfeldia incana, Holocarpha virgata, Hordeum brachyantherum, Koeleria macrantha, Lasthenia spp., Plantago spp., Poa secunda, Sanicula spp., Sisyrinchium bellum, Trifolium spp. and/or Vulpia spp. Emergent trees and shrubs may be present at low cover .

Vegetation Layers

Herbs < 1 m; cover is open to continuous.

Membership Rules

  • Nassella pulchra > 5% absolute cover as a characteristic to dominant species in the herbaceous layer (Klein et al. 2007).
  • Nassella pulchra usually > 10% relative cover of the herbaceous layer (Evens and San 2005, Klein and Evens 2005, Keeler-Wolf and Evens 2006).
  • Nassella pulchra or Nassella cernua is characteristically present in the herbaceous layer with at least 2% absolute cover (Buck-Diaz and Evens 2011b, Buck-Diaz et al. 2012, Buck-Diaz et al. 2013).
  • Nassella pulchra or other Nassella sp. has a clear presence in the stand with > 5% absolute cover in the herbaceous layer (Rodriguez et al. 2017).
  • Nassella cernua > 30% relative cover in the herbaceous layer as a characteristic grass (Buck-Diaz et al. 2012, Buck-Diaz et al. 2013).
  • Melica californica and/or Nassella pulchra > 30% relative cover in the herbaceous layer. Other species including Achnatherum lemmonii, Avena spp., Bromus spp., Hemizonia congesta, Lolium perenne, Plantago erecta, and/or P. lanceolata may intermix as dominant, co-dominant or characteristic taxa in associations of this alliance (Klein et al. 2015).
  • Melica torreyana > 30% relative cover in the herbaceous layer and is commonly associated with serpentinite soils (Buck and Evens 2010).


All topographic locations. Soils may be deep with high clay content, loamy, sandy, or silty derived from mudstone, sandstone, or serpentine substrates.

Other Habitat, Alliance and Community Groupings

MCV (1995) Foothill needlegrass series, Nodding needlegrass series, Purple needlegrass series
NVCS (2009) Nassella cernua herbaceous alliance, Nassella lepida herbaceous alliance, Nassella pulchra herbaceous alliance
Calveg Perennial grasses and forbs
Holland Valley and foothill grassland, Native grassland, Valley needlegrass grassland, Serpentine bunchgrass
Munz Valley grassland
WHR Perennial grassland
CDFW CA Code 41.151.00

National Vegetation Classification Hierarchy

Formation Class Mesomorphic Shrub and Herb Vegetation (Shrubland and Grassland)
Formation Subclass Mediterranean Scrub and Grassland
Formation Mediterranean Grassland and Forb Meadow
Division California Grassland and Meadow
Macro Group California Annual and Perennial Grassland
Group California perennial grassland