Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Way up there on the GAIN scale

with 44 comments

Way up there on the GAIN (great appeal in natives) scale for our grasses is gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), which turns a delicious pink in the fall. It grows as close to Austin as one county east, but landscapers are understandably fond of planting it here. That’s why I could photograph these specimens along South Lakeshore Blvd. on November 17th. Texas is at the southwestern edge of gulf muhly’s range, which I was surprised to find tapers off in the opposite direction through Long Island, where I grew up, and into southern New England. The second picture offers a closer look at the pleasant disarray. In both images I used the contrasting blue sky to set off the pink of the grass.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2020 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , , ,

44 Responses

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  1. They are absolutely gorgeous! No wonder they are high up on the GAIN scale. Amazing colours and so lovely with blue backdrop too. Hope you and yours are safe and well, Steve.


    December 14, 2020 at 5:29 AM

    • Thanks, and the same good wishes to you and your clan. Gulf muhly is gorgeous indeed, so naturally I look forward to it each autumn. The color varies, with some specimens being paler; understandably I hunt for the ones with the most saturated pink to play off against the kind of blue sky we had that day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2020 at 5:44 AM

  2. That is one of the lovelier grasses and looks especially nice against the sky blue.

    Steve Gingold

    December 14, 2020 at 5:52 AM

  3. Spectacular!! I like the description “pleasant disarray”, which is very fitting.


    December 14, 2020 at 5:59 AM

  4. Wild grasses are making a comeback in formal landscapes here and there around Tompkins County, not Pink Muhley. There are sightings in the wild of the general. http://tcf.bh.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/dol/bh/tcf_term.pl?taxon_name=Muhlenbergia_sobolifera


    December 14, 2020 at 6:25 AM

  5. These have been planted around my neighborhood and I have considered trying to photograph them in the late early morning sunlight.

    Jason Frels

    December 14, 2020 at 8:55 AM

  6. Oh that’s very festive and pretty. Definitely GAIN. And WIN (winning, interesting, nice!)

    Robert Parker

    December 14, 2020 at 9:01 AM

    • Speaking of festive, there’s a Festival Beach just across the Colorado River from this gulf muhly. It’s good that you saw my GAIN and went on to WIN.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2020 at 9:13 AM

  7. I am very fond of taking pictures of grasses against the background of the blue sky. While gulf muhly is not a native plant in BC, is it possible that some people can grow them here as ornamental grasses in their yards?

    Peter Klopp

    December 14, 2020 at 9:21 AM

  8. I really like the second photo, in “pleasant disarray.” Wonderful. I remember the first time I learned of the grass, reading a garden book by a gardener along the East coast somewhere. Lovely that it has such a wide range.


    December 14, 2020 at 9:45 AM

    • I’m with you in appreciating the pleasant disarray in the second portrait. This grass’s wide range makes me wonder if I ever saw any on Long Island when I was growing up. Since getting interested in native plants two decades ago I’ve become aware of other species native both in central Texas and up there. Where’s my time machine when I need it?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2020 at 10:57 AM

      • Perhaps a trip is in order?


        December 16, 2020 at 9:22 AM

        • A trip by car is more feasible than one by time machine.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 16, 2020 at 9:43 AM

          • Yes, I believe you’re right about that. I’ve often wished I could travel in time back to when things were “better” although I suspect they weren’t better, really.


            December 17, 2020 at 8:53 AM

            • Medicine and dentistry sure are better now. So is transportation.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 17, 2020 at 11:18 AM

              • And plumbing. I often think wistfully about the Victorian time and shortly thereafter, but then I remember chamber pots and change my mind! 😀


                December 18, 2020 at 9:37 AM

  9. Stunning photos of one of my favorite plants! I’ve given up growing it, as it needs full blasting sun and probably looser soil than my garden can provide. But I love seeing it growing around town and enjoying your photos.

    While I can’t grow the gulf muhly, I’m successful with the big muhly–and I’m content with that.


    December 14, 2020 at 10:45 AM

  10. Perfection confection!


    December 14, 2020 at 11:27 AM

  11. Used to have Gulf Muhly in the “nuisance strip” between curb and sidewalk. Unfortunately, the fall display was somewhat marred by the neighbors’ Shumard oak leaves interspersing themselves within the blades of the Muhly. Always like to see the Muhly grasses – Big Muhly is another favorite. Thanks for the blue skies behind the pink muhlies.


    December 14, 2020 at 11:39 AM

    • I’m not the one to be thanked for arranging those big blue skies; I merely took photographic advantage of them, and was quite happy to do so. Tina (two comments before you) also mentioned big muhly, which she has succeeded with in her yard after gulf muhly lacked enough sunshine to prosper.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2020 at 12:24 PM

  12. Beautiful. The second one looks like a textile design.


    December 14, 2020 at 4:52 PM

  13. We see this here too, and it’s a native. We love it!


    December 14, 2020 at 7:31 PM

  14. Beautiful captures, Steve. One of my favorite grasses, but sadly, I live just one zone too cold for it.

    Eliza Waters

    December 14, 2020 at 8:03 PM

  15. That is gorgeous wild grass, Steve. The pink against the blue makes a nice image.

    Lavinia Ross

    December 15, 2020 at 10:27 AM

  16. The color contrast works very nicely. In the second there is a feeling of the grasses rustling.


    December 15, 2020 at 12:45 PM

    • As I recall, there was a breeze, and yet I don’t remember a rustling sound coming from the gulf muhly. Perhaps there was, and I was too involved in taking pictures to notice it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2020 at 8:33 PM

  17. I laughed when I saw these. I had a few Gulf muhly photos that appeared very much the same, and I tossed every one of them because I thought the light, or the color, or something wasn’t quite right. In fact, it seems to be the nature of the plant itself that creates the diaphanous effect: the ‘there, but not quite there’ color and movement. It really is an unusual and pretty grass; it puts me in mind again of the color ‘sky-blue-pink.’


    December 16, 2020 at 8:47 PM

    • I remember the sky-blue-pink. Maybe I should’ve included the term in my text. I agree that the diaphanous effect is largely inherent in these plants. Too bad you didn’t think any of your takes on this species were salvageable. I hope you’ll give it another shot, perhaps even this year if the plants near you aren’t as far along as many have gotten in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2020 at 9:37 PM

  18. Such deliciousness, Steve…especially in the second photo with that haze of pink against a soft blue sky.


    December 21, 2020 at 2:23 PM

    • By coincidence we drove past these gulf muhly plants again this morning. I’m glad I photographed them a month ago, when they seem to have reached their peak of deliciousness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2020 at 5:33 PM

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