Remembering Lindheimer’s muhly grass from last year’s garden


It’s spring.  The grasses are sprouting.

Texas is a good place for grasses.

Lindheimer's muhly grass, in the afternoon sun

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Dallas, Texas, January 2013. Photo by Ed Darrell; horticultural adventures by Kathryn Knowles

Spring sunlight is spectacular on the new flowers; winter sunlight, in the afternoon, shows a different kind of spectacular.

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, shows beauty from soon after it sprouts until long after it’s gone dormant.  A garden is a year-around project, and joy.

History lives in those grasses, too.  You can find some at the Native Plant Society of Texas’s website, and its description of Lindheimer’s muhly.

This seems pretty dumb now, but many years ago when I first heard about so many grasses called “muley,” I was puzzled about that name. I’d heard of muley cattle such as polled Herefords, but not hornless grass! Needless to say, as soon as I looked up Lindheimer muhly, I could see it is in a genus named after a Mr. Muhlenberg.

Gotthilf Hunrich Ernst Muhlenberg lived from 1753 to 1815. He was born into a prominent Pennsylvania family, and his father and brothers were influential patriots during the Revolutionary War. Because of his family’s involvement in the Revolution, Muhlenberg was on the British hit list.

While he was hiding out in a rural area away from Philadelphia during the Revolution, Muhlenberg became interested in botany. Through his extensive collections, Muhlenberg made major contributions to botany, and many plants have been named in his honor. For example, among our local flora are several species of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia) and Chinquapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii).

Lindheimer muhly was named in honor of Ferdinand Lindheimer, the “Father of Texas Botany.” Many other plants native to the Texas Hill Country also bear the name “Lindheimer” or “Lindheimer’s.” Most of these plants were first collected by Lindheimer, who settled on the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels in 1845.

Another entry in the Blackland Prairie Almanac, perhaps.

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