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Muhlenbergia rigens
About Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) Nurseries Show All Photos Deergrass is a large perennial bunchgrass found in sandy or well drained soils below 7000 feet in elevation in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. In California, it grows primarily in the coast ranges of central and southern California, the Sierra and Cascade foothills, and the eastern part of the North Coast range. The plant is characterized by dense, tufted basal foliage consisting of narrow pointed leaves that reach lengths of about 3 feet and range in color from light silver-green to purple. The spike-like stems are less than half an inch wide and 3 to 4 feet in length. During bloom, the numerous flower bunches often reach heights of five feet. Deergrass is characteristic of tallgrass prairie of much of the Western United States. It inhabits a wide range of ecotypes including grassland, riparian, chaparral, mixed conifer, and oak woodland communities.

Deergrass is one of the most beautiful and probably the easiest to grow of all the native California bunchgrasses, typically reaching mature size in one or two years. It prefers sandy or gravelly soils, but does OK in almost any soil as long as it's well drained. It can handle fairly frequent summer water (up to 1x per week), but once mature, it really doesn't need any supplementary water. It prefers full sun or part shade, but handles full shade reasonably well - it just grows more slowly.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
4 - 5 ft (1.2 - 1.5 m)

Max. Width
4 ft (1.2 m)

Upright, Fountain


Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate


Flower Color
Yellow, Cream

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
In southern California and along the central coast it is found in sandy gravelly places, canyons, and washes as part of the chaparral community. In inland mountain areas it may occur with Ponderosa Pine and other trees in yellow pine woodland or foothill woodland. In a few locations it may be found on seasonal stream banks or other wetland areas.


Elevation ?
14' - 7694'

Annual Precip. ?
4.1" - 61.8"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.83"

Coldest Month ?
32.3° F - 60.5° F

Hottest Month ?
55.0° F - 87.5° F

Humidity ?
0.46 vpd - 40.07 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of sand and clay

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 6*, 7*, 8*, 9*, 10*, 11*, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
This is a large clumping grass, so use with shrubs that won't be overwhelmed by it, such as Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia), larger Ceanothus, Manzanita species, or Scrub Oaks.

Wildlife Attracted
Seed eating birds will be attracted to it in summer

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Very Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Can be cut back in fall if it becomes unruly

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Groundcovers, Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Deer Muhly

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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