Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 588 Muhlenbergia capillaris

Common Names: Gulf muhlygrass, mist grass, hairawn muhly, pink muhlygrass Family: Poaceae (grass Family)
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purple muhlygrass
Muhlygrass explodes into a purple hazes when backlit by afternoon sunshine.


A knee high purple haze in the distance may not be an atmospheric event, but the effect created by the wispy, purplish flower heads in a dense stand of Gulf muhlygrass. This is a showy clump forming grass that can get to 3 ft (0.9 m) tall and just as wide. The stems and leaves are wirelike and unbranched, originating from a dense basal clump. (Muhlygrass does not produce runners.) The purplish-red or pink inflorescence is a diffuse, silky panicle, 18 in (45.7 cm) long and 10 in (25.4 cm) wide, that stands above the wiry leaves. It appears in late summer, and persists for 6-8 weeks. The ripe seeds that follow give an attractive tan color to the wispy plumes.


Gulf muhlygrass occurs in eastern North America from Kansas to Massachusetts and south to Florida, Texas and Mexico, and in the West Indies. It can occur as an isolated plant or in dense stands where it is the only grass. Gulf muhlygrass occurs in wet prairies, savannas, and the outer edges of marshes, and also in well drained upland pine forests. It is frequently found near the coast in interdune swales. There are some 60 species in the Muhlenbergia genus, and some are important range grasses in western North America.


Light: Full sun to light shade. Moisture: Gulf muhlygrass tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions from moist to dry, acidic to alkaline, and sandy to marly. Established plantings will not need supplemental watering, but the grass will get larger with liberal irrigation. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 10. Propagation: Gulf muhlygrass is easy to start from seed. Existing clumps can be divided to start new plants.


Gulf muhlygrass is used in borders and perennial gardens where a fine textured foliage is desired to accent bolder specimens. It makes an excellent groundcover for areas with poor soils, or a refined specimen grass in natural gardens. Gulf muhlygrass is tolerant of salt spray and poor soils. Once established, it needs no care. Muhlygrass is recommended for road shoulders and medians.

purple muhlygrass planting
Muhlygrass makes a spectacular groundcover when planted in masses as in this commercial planting in Tallahassee, Florida.


In South Carolina there is a tradition of weaving fine baskets from Gulf muhlygrass which is usually called sweetgrass in that region.

Steve Christman 11/18/99; updated 1/18/04

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Muhlenbergia species profiled on Floridata:

Muhlenbergia capillaris

( Gulf muhlygrass, mist grass, hairawn muhly, pink muhlygrass )

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

( Lindheimer's muhlygrass, blue muhlygrass )

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