Plant of the Week: Pink muhly grass

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Muhlenbergia capillaris, commonly known as pink muhly grass, is named after famed American botanist and clergyman, Gotthilf Muhlenberg. The species capillaris is derived from the Latin capillus meaning hair-like.

This clump-forming warm season grass is considered to be one of the most beautiful natives of North America. It can be found growing in open woodlands and along roadsides across much of the eastern United States, from Missouri to Massachusetts and southward in Florida. Once an abundant species, Muhlenbergia capillaris is now endangered in Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland and New Jersey. In South Carolina, the grass is used with bulrush, long leaf pine needles and palmetto leaves in the weaving of traditional gathering baskets. This craft represents one of the oldest West African art forms and is still practiced to this day.

Although a handsome specimen in spring and summer, Muhlenbergia capillaris is most easily identified in fall by its abundant masses of pink airy inflorescences held above wiry dark green leaves and stems. In winter, after many of the other grasses have retired for the season, the show continues with flower and seed plumes fading to a beautiful shade of silver grey. Seeing this grass caught in a breeze in the morning sunlight, it is easy to understand why it is one of the top favorites for winter interest here on the High Line.

PLANTING TIP
Plant Muhlenbergia capillaris in full sun to partial shade in a well-drained, sandy soil. This plant has average moisture requirements but tolerates dry spells once established. Plant in mass for best effect, but keep plants spaced 36" apart as the plant does not like to be crowded.

WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Muhlenbergia capillaris can be seen at the Washington Grasslands and the 11th Avenue Bridge

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