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Muhlenbergia capillaris Muhly Grass

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen


Muhly grass has a clumping form, growing 3 to 4 feet tall and about as wide. A stiff, upright growth habit makes this markedly different from many other grasses. Delicate, purple flowers emerge in the fall well above the foliage and can literally cover the foliage. It is native to pine flatwoods, coastal upland and beach dunes, and sandhill communities. This grass is very similar to Muhlenbergia filipes.

Full Form - Muhlenbergia capillaris: Muhly Grass
Figure 1. Full form - Muhlenbergia capillaris: Muhly grass. 
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS 


Flower - Muhlenbergia capillaris: Muhly Grass
Figure 2. Flower - Muhlenbergia capillaris: Muhly grass. 
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS 

General Description

Scientific name: Muhlenbergia capillaris

Pronunciation: mew-len-BER-jee-uh kap-pill-LAIR-riss

Common name(s): purple muhly grass, muhly grass, hairawn muhly

Family: Poaceae

Plant type: herbaceous; ornamental grass

USDA hardiness zones: 7 through 11 (Figure 3)

Planting month for zone 7: year round

Planting month for zone 8: year round

Planting month for zone 9: year round

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: native to Florida

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: reclamation plant; cut flowers; border; accent; mass planting

Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 3. Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 3 to 5 feet

Spread: 2 to 3 feet

Plant habit: upright

Plant density: open

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: linear

Leaf venation: parallel

Leaf type and persistence: semi-evergreen

Leaf blade length: 18 to 36 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: copper

Fall characteristic: showy


Flower color: pink

Flower characteristic: fall flowering


Fruit shape: oval

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch

Fruit cover: dry or hard

Fruit color: brown

Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems

Current year stem/twig color: not applicable

Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun

Soil tolerances: extended flooding; acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: moderate

Plant spacing: 24 to 36 inches


Roots: not applicable

Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers

Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more

Use and Management

Muhly grass is a tough native grass useful in many different landscape sites. It has extreme tolerance to drought and flooding, making it suited for wetland sites as well as beachfront landscapes. It would be hard to find a more adaptable grass. Muhly grass makes a nice, fine-textured mass planting for sites ranging from roadside to residential landscape. Plant them in large, sweeping drifts on a large landscape for a dramatic effect. It is virtually maintenance free except in those instances where you might want to remove the brown foliage in the spring by cutting the clump back to the ground before new growth emerges. Growth is best in sandy or rocky soil.

Pest and Diseases

There are no known pests or problems.

Publication #FPS415

Release Date:January 11, 2024

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About this Publication

This document is FPS415, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 1999. Revised October 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Gail Hansen, professor, sustainable landscape design; Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman
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