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Products > Muhlenbergia rigens
Muhlenbergia rigens - Deer Grass

[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Grass
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae) (Grasses)
Origin: California (U.S.A.)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Silver
Bloomtime: Summer
Height: 4-5 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: <15 F
Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass) - This wonderful warm season California native bunch grass typically has foliage to 3 feet in height and the plant gets to 5 feet when in flower with an equal spread. It has narrow leaves and long silver-gray flower panicles that arch gracefully 2 to 3 feet over the gray-green foliage in late summer. Plant in full sun or partial shade. Once established, Deer Grass can go the entire summer without water but it can also tolerate regular garden water which keeps the foliage nearly evergreen. Hardy to around 0 F. Can be left alone for a natural look but best cut back in late winter to early spring to allow fresh new foliage to emerge. This is an extremely adaptable plant that can grow it hot dry xeric gardens as a companion to native or other mediterranean climate plants or can be used in the occasionally to regularly irrigated meadow, where it can be an accent or the common thread that knits the meadow together. According to John Greenlee's American Meadow Garden, it can also tolerate direct first seaside exposure. Deer grass is found naturally in well-drained soils in many plant communities below 7,000 feet from near the Oregon-California border south to Mexico and east to Texas. It is thought that this wide range may be because the plant was encouraged and managed using fire by native Americans who used the long flower stems in basketry. It is a great grass used in mass for height in a natural meadow or as a specimen used sparingly with native shrubs and is great natural habitat for attracting birds and butterflies into the garden. The German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber (1739-1810) named the genus for Gotthilf Heinrich (Henry) Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815) who was American born but returned to his ancestral Germany for schooling and later returned to America. He was an ordained Lutheran minister but devoted his free time to the study of the botany. The specific epithet is the Latin word for "rigid" or "stiff", likely in reference to the stiff stalks of the flowering stems. The common name Deer Grass is not because the plant is a preferred browse plant but because deer like to lay on the mounds. The long stems of the inflorescence were used by many Native American tribes for basketry and the seeds ground food.  The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery's garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Muhlenbergia rigens.