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California's Native Grasslands

Deergrass, Muhlenbergia rigens

October 2014

Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is a native perennial bunchgrass named for its ability to provide cover during the fawning period of mule deer. Younger individuals are good food for grazers and song birds and provides habitat for the California ringlet (Coenonympha california), the umber skipper (Poanes melane), and wintering ladybugs. With its deep root system deergrass is also a very valuable stream bank stabilizer and can suppress weeds when growing in dense clusters. Historically, deergrass flower stalks were favored by Native Americans and were used in the foundations of coiled baskets.

While deergrass is a perennial and can grow slowly from seed it responds well to fire and adults can come back relatively fast. This it what makes this plant great for our grasslands, but it is also a beautiful plant for your yard as well! It is shade and sun tolerant, grows well in sandy or gravely well-drained soils, and can be maintained in fall by mowing.


[USDA] U.S. Department of Agriculture (2002) Deergrass Muhlenbergia rigens (Benth.) A.S. Hitchc.

[USDA] U.S. Department of Agriculture (2009) Purple Needlegrass Nassella pulchra (Hitchc.) Barkworth.

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