Plants cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 35-120 cm, not forming corms; internodes smooth. Sheaths glabrous or pilose, often most pilose at the throat and collar; ligules 0.5-1.5 mm; blades 1.5-4.5 mm wide, abaxial surfaces smooth, adaxial surfaces scabridulous, glabrous or puberulent. Panicles 6-25 cm; branches 3-8 cm, appressed, with 2-6 spikelets; pedicels straight; disarticulation above the glumes. Spikelets 7-20 mm, with 2-6 bisexual florets; rachilla internodes 2-2.4 mm. Glumes obtuse to subacute; lower glumes 4-10 mm long, 1.5-2.5 mm wide, 3-5-veined; upper glumes 5-11 mm long, 1.8-2.5 mm wide, 5-7-veined; lemmas 6-16 mm, hairy, hairs to 0.75 mm on the back, 0.7-1.3 mm on the margins, 9-11-veined, veins inconspicuous, apices mucronate to rounded, usually awned, awns 0.5-3 mm, fragile; paleas about 3/4 as long as to nearly equaling the length of the lemmas; anthers 3, 2.2-4 mm; rudiments 2.5-6 mm, tapering, resembling the bisexual florets. Caryopses about 5 mm. 2n =18.
Calif., Oreg., Wash., B.C.
Melica harfordii grows primarily in the Pacific coast ranges from Washington to California, as well as in the Sierra Nevada and a few other inland locations, usually on dry slopes or in dry, open woods. The awns in M. harfordii often escape attention because they do not always extend beyond the lemma.