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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs


Scientific Name: Muhlenbergia frondose (Poir.) Fern.,

Other Names: Muhlenbergie feuillée

Family: Grass Family (Gramineae)

General Description: Perennial, reproducing by seed and by rhizomes.

Habitat: Wire-stemmed muhly is a native plant found in southern and eastern Ontario in moist, rich soil in woods, thickets, shores, banks and flood plains, from which it has spread into cultivated fields, roadsides and waste places.


  • Rhizomes usually in a tangled mass
  • At or just below the soil surface
  • Consisting of many short, scale, much branched, beige to pink or purplish, brittle segments


  • Slender
  • Wiry
  • Up to 100 cm (40 in.) long
  • Varying from upright to nearly prostrate
  • Usually much-branched and bushy in aspect, smooth
  • Exposed stem internodes yellowish-green above each node and grading upward to pinking-purple below the next node


  • Sheaths green, smooth, shorter than the stem internodes
  • Separate margins that open and expose the internodes of the stem
  • Ligule membranous, it outer margin ragged, 0.5 mm (1/50 in.) long
  • No auricles
  •  Blades rather thing, 2.5-1.5 cm (1-6 in.) long and 2-8 mm (1/12-1/3 in.) wide, tapering to a long, thin point


  • Inflorescence of small, soft, somewhat silky panicles, these at first green, then becoming greenish-purple to purple at maturity
  • Very numerous
  • Produced at the ends of stems and from most leaf axils, each with clusters of crowded spikelets
  • Spikelets soft, hairy, 2-3.3 mm (1/12-1/8 in.) long
  • Each spikelet with 1 floret and an awn 4-12 mm (1/10-1/2 in.) long or awnless
  • Flowers from July to September

Often Confused With
Quackgrass, annual grasses (It is distinguished by its tangled mass of beige-purple, scaly rhizomes, its slender somewhat purplish stems and its numerous compact inflorescences from upper leaf axils as well as ends of stems.)

Wire-stemmed muhly

Wire-stemmed muhly. A. 1 much branched flowering stem arising from a mass of scaly rhizomes. B. Leaf-base. C. Leaf-base enclosing part of the next-younger leaf.Click to enlarge.