Bamboo muhly in full flower

In December I raved about bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), a grass native to southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico that looks remarkably like Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata subsp.aztecorum). Check out my original post for more information about this unique grass and for photos of what our plants looked like back then.

Bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) next to our driveway in December 2010

Things look very different this spring. Our bamboo muhly, especially the one planted in the ground next to our driveway, is in full flower. Now don’t get too excited about the word “flower.” Like many grasses, the flowers produced by bamboo muhly are nothing to write home about. They’re inconspicuous, brownish gray, and completely dull.

What is very strange this year is not the appearance of flowers per se, but rather the sheer abundance of them. In fact, from a distance, it looks like the plant is dying.

The same plant in full flower in May 2011
Flowers galore. I wonder if there will be fertile seeds?

Looking closer, you can see that new leaves are actually emerging, but the overall effect is still a bit depressing. In fact, my wife asked me recently when I was going to remove this eyesore!

I tried to find information online about this flowering phenomenon, but I wasn’t successful. This is our third year of growing bamboo muhly. Last year, the flowers were much more sporadic, appearing in between healthy leaves so they were barely noticeable. This year, the plant shed all its leaves as the proliferation of flowers was emerging. In fact, it is acting very much like a bamboo going into a mass flowering phase, which often results in the death of the plant.

The good thing is that in spite of its common name, bamboo muhly is not a bamboo. I’m hoping that after 5 or 6 weeks of constant flowering, we’ll soon see a healthy crop of new leaves which will restore the plant to its usual self: a billowing mass of a lacy green leaves.

Signs of new leaves emerging

Related posts:

  • A few updates (10/23/11)
    See how the the bamboo muhly has made a complete recovery.


  1. I'm curious too if the seeds will be viable? I hope it recovers, it looked pretty in the first photo.

    I've given up on Otatea ssp. Aztecorum, it kept going backwards here despite being overpotted and overwintered in a heated greenhouse.

  2. I'm glad you forgot to send me a piece of this one earlier in the year -- it looks terrible right now! ;-)

    Hope it rebounds for you.


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