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Lesser Arrowgrass

Triglochin bulbosa subsp. laxiflora  Gussone  (Fam: JUNCAGINACEAE.)

Published date of profile: Oct-2007.
Citation: Mifsud S., (Oct-2007) Triglochin bulbosa subsp. laxiflora on MaltaWildPlants.com

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Species name :

Triglochin bulbosa subsp. laxiflora  Gussone

Synonyms :

Basionym or principal synonyms: No Main Synonyms
Full list of synonyms: [ PlantList ]   [ IPNI ]   [ Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Juncaginaceae  Rich.
(Arrow-grass Family)

Common name(s) :

Lesser Arrowgrass, Lax-flowered Bulbous Arrow-grass

Maltese name(s) :

Ħaxixa tal-baħar tal-ħarifa, Triglokin tal-ħarifa

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Originating from the Maltese islands


Very Common     Common     Frequent     Scarce     Rare     Very rare     Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer life form: GEOPHYTE (Bulbous/Rhizomatous plants)   
Germination: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection :

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List (1989) :

This species has a threatened status and is listed in the Flora section of the National Red Data Book (Lanfranco, 1989)

Flowering Time :


Habitat :

Rock water pools on garigues and valley sides. Also reported in damp sites in cultivated sites.

Plant description and characters

Life Cycle:


Growth Form:

GEOPHYTE (Bulbous/Rhizomatous plants)


Rock water pools on garigues and valley sides. Also reported in damp sites in cultivated sites.


Frequent Although frequent in certain locations, it can be totally absent or very rare in others.

Localities in Malta:

Uncommon, but locally frequent in certain sites in Malta and Gozo, for example Mosta (Wied il-Ghasel), Melliha, Birzebbugia and Xlendi (Gozo).

Plant Height:


Flowering Period:


Protection in Malta:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List 1989:

This species has a threatened status and is listed in the Flora section of the National Red Data Book (Lanfranco, 1989)


Data not available

A perennial, herbaceous delicate plant which grows from small beige bulbs, about 1-2cm long, and often some 3-5cm above soil level. It forms long, fibrous roots a small tuft of leaves, and later an erect scape (flowering stem) that grows about 12cm in length, but some describe it to reach even 25-30cm.

The leaves are formed after the first rains in Autumn. These are flexible with a narrow linear shape ranging from few centimetres to 20cm long, and not more than 3mm wide. Young leaves are found ascending from a common point in the soil, but then they curve down and lie on the ground when they grow longer. They have a shallow longitudinal furrow on both surfaces. Leaves are glabrous, shiny, and with a smooth margin.

In October, the plant forms an erect scape giving rise to 3-15 flowers, markedly spaced from each other, and held by a short pedicel. Each flower is made up of 2 whorls of 3 tepals each, one situated over the other by 1mm apart. The lower 3 tepals are found spreading out into 3 distinct structures, in contrast to the upper whorl where its 3 tepals are found erect, and overlapping each other forming a closed cup shaped structure. The lower tepals are pale green, often but not always with an apex flushed in maroon while the upper ones are green.

At the base of the lower tepals there are the 6 stamens, a pair at each tepal. They have a very short or no filament. The anthers produce large amounts of pale yellow pollen which can be clearly seen escaping away as 'sulphur dust' if the flower is gently flicked.

The upper tepals are found surrounding and partially enclosing the superior ovary which is longer from them. At the top of the ovary there are 3 stigmas which when mature and dry, they are visibly seen as triangular feathery white structures. After fertilisation, the tepals fall down and the ovary lengthens to a 3-carpel fruit.

The green, glabrous fruit are held by a shorter pedicel in an erect position, not appressed to the stem. It measures between 5-10mm long and is very slender, less than 2mm across. It consists of 3 carpels joined longitudinally to a common central axis. The apex is not joined, resulting in 3 tiny pointed projections. The seeds (3 per fruit) are liberated when the fruit splits open along the carpel length. They are very thin structures, linear and slightly curvet at the ends.

Information, uses and other details

Nativity and distribution

According to  [383], the countries of origin are Europe, South Africa and Asia Minor but  [332] only mentions that the plant is found in Italy and Algerie. The list of European sites that the plant is found by Flora Europaea is: Albania, Balareas Islands, Corsica, Crete, France, Greece, Spain, Italy, ex-Jugoslavia, Portugal, Sardegna and Sicily.  [WWW-158]. T. bulbosa (s.l) is found in the nature reserve of Fernkloof (Cape Town) [ref] and Perth, Australia as an alien [ref]

Toxic effects

According to  [399], the related species - Marsh arrow-grass (Triglochin palustre) a native plant that is found sporadically across Canada in damp brackish or calcareous places contain a cyanogenic glycoside - triglochinin. This chemical becomes more abundant during times of moisture depletion within the plants. Occasional poisoning occurs with cattle and sheep in the lower Cariboo district of British Columbia. Similarly, Triglochin maritima is poisonous due to the same glycosid  [WWW-24] Hence it is possible that the toxin Triglochinin is also found in T. bulbosa s.l.  [SM]

Notes on the Nomenclature of Triglochin

When publishing the name Triglochin Linnaeus (1753) treated it as of neuter gender (T. palustre, T. maritimum). Bentham (1878) treated it as feminine, presumably on the basis that glochin is feminine, and he was followed by most subsequent Australian authors. Since the 1990s, however, there has been a general consensus to accept Linnaeus' original choice of neuter. However, the ICBN (Art. 62.2 (d.) Ex. 5 mandates a feminine gender for Triglochin, which is adopted in recent flora.

Personal Observations

Triglochin species on the Maltese islands
There are only 2 species from the Juncaginaceae family in Malta, and both are subspecies of the Triglochin bulbosa. Apart from T. bulbosa subsp. laxiflora, there is also present T. bulbosa subsp. barrelieri, which can be distinguished from the former by having more dense racemes, fruiting pedicels as long or longer than the fruit (never shorter) and flowers in Spring. This species is less common, and is locally frequent in few sites.  [SM]

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Vienna Virt. Hb.





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