Sandhill Muhly

Sandhill Muhly, courtesy of Dr. James Bowns
Photo courtesy of Dr. James Bowns, Southern Utah University
Common Name(s):

Sandhill Muhly
Wickiup Grass

Scientific Name(s):

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. 

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

Ecological Adaptations:

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.