Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Dropping in on pink muhly

with 24 comments

Brown Bald Cypress Sprigs Fallen into Gulf Muhly 8680

Click for better sharpness.

Muhlenbergia capillaris, a pretty grass known as pink muhly and gulf muhly, is native in parts of Arkansas as well as Texas (and various other states). I found this one on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, on November 9. Some brown sprigs from a bald cypress treeTaxodium distichum, had fallen into the feathery grass and remained caught there.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2013 at 6:00 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Looks like a beautiful plant. The image is very crisp and really shows off the fine detail of the plant! nice stuff!


    November 30, 2013 at 7:01 AM

  2. Steve, a stunning portrayal of the grasses–I am drawn into the delicacy that you captured and the ethereal background.


    November 30, 2013 at 7:18 AM

    • This is the most colorful native grass I know, Sally, and probably also the most delicate and visually delicious

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2013 at 8:58 AM

  3. I’m tickled pink! I found a large stand of this grass along the Art Trail and wondered what it was. I came close to posting a photo of it in my overview of the museum, but decided it didn’t meet even my relaxed standards, so I deleted it.

    In any event – it is beautiful and so’s your photo. I’ve never seen such a pure pink in anything but a flower’s bloom. And now I know its name. I was curious about that name, too. I knew Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the founder of the Lutheran Church in America. Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania’s named for him. I went looking and discovered this about the grass: “The genus of this plant is named for Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815), also Heinrich Ludwig Muehlenberg, or Henry Muhlenberg, who was a German-educated Lutheran minister and the first president of Franklin College, now Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania.”

    I’ll bet no one ever called any of the Reverends Muhlenberg “Muhly”.


    November 30, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    • Well-chosen words, tickled pink. This muhly of that color was indeed along a trail, one that doubled back behind the museum but didn’t lead to a museum entrance; that could have been the Art Trail, but I don’t recall.

      I did the same delving as you about the name Muhlenberg. My best botanical reference book lists only Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg, identified as a distinguished American botanist of Pennsylvania. The first name Gotthilf means God-help, which I can’t imagine anyone being named in English, except maybe among the Pilgrims. If you can’t imagine someone calling Reverend Muhlenberg “Muhly,” I could say that same about running into a friend and asking “What’s up, God-help?”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2013 at 9:09 AM

  4. Very delicate and wispy, almost like the tail of a comet. 🙂

    I taught with a math teacher with the last name of Muhly and a science teacher named Muhlenburg.

    Jim in IA

    November 30, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    • Better to have taught with a math teacher than to have fought with one. I’m impressed that you’ve known both a Muhlenberg and a Muhly (which could have been shortened from the original). The closest I’ve ever come to a Muhlenberg is several species of grass in this genus, of which this is the most colorful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2013 at 9:12 AM

  5. Très belle douceur rosée 🙂


    November 30, 2013 at 7:51 AM

  6. I love these colours. The blended background really sets them off.


    November 30, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    • That’s a good observation about “the blended background.” Gulf muhly is the most colorful native grass I know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2013 at 2:51 PM

  7. Marvelously lacy.


    November 30, 2013 at 12:07 PM

  8. […] like, and why people are increasingly planting it as an ornamental, I’m happy to oblige. Like the last picture, this one comes from the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, […]

  9. What a beautiful sight thanks for sharing. I’ve never heard of or seen this before.


    November 30, 2013 at 2:18 PM

  10. Oh, my, that’s pretty stuff. I wonder if it would grow in Victoria, TX? Beautiful photo of it too.

    George Weaver

    November 30, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    • I thank you and the muhly thanks you. This species appears to be native in Victoria County, and people have gotten it grow in many other places (like Austin) where it isn’t native, so go ahead and plant it if you can find a nursery that sells it, or find some in the wild and gather seeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      • Thank you very much, Steve! I’ll be out looking on Monday at the nurseries. 🙂

        George Weaver

        November 30, 2013 at 9:05 PM

  11. Perhaps you’ve answered this, but I wonder why “muhly”? There is a young and quite popular composer named Nico Muhly. I wonder what he might compose to accompany the pink grass? He seems to have this habit of thumping in odd places (a rabbit in the grass?), but here’s a piece by him that seems quite nice: http://youtu.be/W3QM7rXNBMc.

    Susan Scheid

    December 1, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    • Your intuition is correct: if you come back to this post on its Internet page and look at the comment by shoreacres and my reply, you’ll see where the word muhly came from.

      Maybe you can e-mail Nico Muhly to see if he knows about the existence of pink muhly and if he’d be interested in writing a piece of music about it. There are other species of muhly as well, but this is the most attractive one I know of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      • Ah, Mr. Muhlenberg, I see. Gott hilf us all. (Nico M. is too big a fish for me to have his e-mail–already an opera at the Met–but perhaps he’ll run across the eponymous grass by other means.)

        Susan Scheid

        December 1, 2013 at 9:41 PM

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