Sandhill Muhly

    Sandhill Muhly

    Common Name(s):

    Sandhill Muhly

    Wickiup Grass

    Scientific Name:

    Muhlenbergia pungens Thurb.

    Scientific Name Synonyms:

    None known




    Life Span: Perennial

    Origin: Native

    Season: Warm

    Growth Characteristics: Sandhill muhly is a bunchgrass with coarse, scaly rhizomes that is 4-24” tall. It often forms large rounded clumps or rings, with it dying out in the center. It reproduces by rhizomes and seed.

    Seedhead: Its seedhead is an open panicle 3-6” long and 1-3” wide, with branches and hairlike pedicels spreading widely and much longer than the spikelets. Spikelets contain 1 floret, are ?-¼” long including awns, and are mostly reddish-purple to brownish. The glumes are often awn-tipped, rough, narrowly tapering to the tip or oval, and considerably shorter than the lemmas. Lemmas are narrow and gradually taper to a short awn. Paleas are equal to or slightly longer than the body of the lemma with 2 nerves that form awn-tips. Seeds are small.

    Leaves: Leaf blades are rigid, rolled inward, sharply tipped, 1-2½” long and very narrow, and smooth or with fine hairs. Ligules are short, often with membranous lobes on the sides, and occasionally appearing to consist of a ring of hairs. Leaf sheaths are wooly-hairy at the base and smooth above.

    Leaves: Stems are erect or more often decumbent-ascending and much branched above the base.

    Ecological Adaptions:

    Sandhill muhly is found across Southern Utah at elevations from 3,500-6,500’ in desert shrub and pinyon-juniper communities.

    Soils: It occurs primarily on sands.

    Associated Species:  Associated species include sand sagebrush, yucca, Indian ricegrass, pinyon, juniper, skunkbush sumac, penstemons, bitterbrush, blackbrush, pointleaf manzanita, and Utah serviceberry.

    Uses and Management:

    Sandhill muhly has little value as forage for livestock or wild grazers. It is effective in controlling wind erosion in very sandy areas but seed is not produced commercially.

    name of plant
    Photo courtesy of Dr. James Bowns, Southern Utah University