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SPECIES: Muhlenbergia richardsonis


Aleksoff, Keith C. 1999. Muhlenbergia richardsonis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: /database/feis/plants/graminoid/muhric/all.html [].


Muhlenbergia squarrosa (Nutt.) Torr. [43]


mat muhly

The scientific name of mat muhly is Muhlenbergia richardsonis (Trin.) Rydb. (Poaceae) [21,24,25,26,44].


No special status

Mat muhly is state-listed as threatened in Maine [29].


SPECIES: Muhlenbergia richardsonis

Mat muhly occurs from southern Yukon east to New Brunswick and Maine and south to Ohio, Nebraska, California, and Baja California. [25,30].

FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands




 5  Columbia Plateau
 6  Upper Basin and Range
 7  Lower Basin and Range
 8  Northern Rocky Mountains
 9  Middle Rocky Mountains
10  Wyoming Basin
11  Southern Rocky Mountains
12  Colorado Plateau
13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14  Great Plains
16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
K008  Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest
K011  Western ponderosa forest
K016  Eastern ponderosa forest
K018  Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019  Arizona pine forest
K023  Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024  Juniper steppe
K037  Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K039  Blackbrush
K041  Creosotebush
K053  Grama-galleta steppe
K055  Sagebrush steppe
K056  Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057  Galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe
K063  Foothills prairie
K064  Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065  Grama-buffalograss
K066  Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067  Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K074  Bluestem prairie
K098  Northern floodplain forest
206  Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir
217  Aspen
218  Lodgepole pine
219  Limber pine
220  Rocky Mountain juniper
237  Interior ponderosa pine
238  Western juniper
239  Pinyon-juniper
244  Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir
247  Jeffery pine
104  Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105  Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
107  Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
109  Ponderosa pine shrubland
110  Ponderosa pine-grassland
210  Bitterbrush
211  Creosote bush scrub
212  Blackbrush
216  Montane meadows
301  Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
313  Tufted hairgrass-sedge
314  Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315  Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316  Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317  Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
322  Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass
401  Basin big sagebrush
402  Mountain big sagebrush
403  Wyoming big sagebrush
408  Other sagebrush types
409  Tall forb
411  Aspen woodland
412  Juniper-pinyon woodland
602  Bluestem-praire sandreed
607  Wheatgrass-needlegrass
612  Sagebrush-grass
613  Fescue grassland
704  Blue grama-western wheatgrass
714  Grama-bluestem
908  Fescue
Mat muhly typically grows in dry meadows and open flatlands associated with ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), lodgepole pine (P. contorta), and fir (Abies spp.)-spruce (Picea spp.) zones. It occasionally spreads down into sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) flatlands [37,40]. In upland meadows mat muhly is commonly associated with needlegrass (Stipa spp.), bluegrass (Poa spp.), and mountain muhly (Muhlenbergia montana) [40]. In the Midwest mat muhly's associates include shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), purple pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea), low nutrush (Scleria verticillata), and marsh arrowgrass (Triglochin palustris) [17]. Mat muhly's associates in pinyon-juniper woodlands include predominantly singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) with an understory of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and desert bitterbrush (Purshia glandulosa)[6]. In the Sierra Nevada common associates include western yarrow (Achillea lanulosa), northwest cinquefoil (Potentilla gracilis), sedge (Carex spp.), rush (Juncus spp.), and bluegrass (Poa spp.) [7]. In alpine areas of the Sierra Nevada, mat muhly is associated with needlegrass (Stipa spp.) and wax currant (Ribes cereum), where it is found with the krummholz form of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) [31]. In plains grassland communities mat muhly commonly occurs with manyflowered aster (Aster pansus), purple milkvetch (Astragalus goniatus), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), and slenderstem peavine (Lathyrus palustris) [13].

Mat muhly is described as a dominant or an indicator species in the following community type classifications:

Classification and dynamics of subalpine meadow ecosystems in the southern Sierra Nevada [4]
Habitat characteristics of the Silver Lake mule deer range [11]
Vegetation of saline areas in Saskatchewan [13]
Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington [19]
Plant communities and soils of an eastern South Dakota prairie [36]


SPECIES: Muhlenbergia richardsonis

Young mat muhly is readily eaten by livestock. Plants become less palatable as they mature. Mat muhly cures well in the northern Great Plains and is grazed by all classes of livestock, especially in the winter [12,40]. Pieper [32] reported that in a New Mexico pinyon-juniper grassland , mat muhly only comprised 8% of cattle diets over 3 years, although during 1 of these years from January to March mat muhly comprised 24% of the diet.

Mat muhly plants usually grow in scattered patches, so they are seldom sufficiently abundant to be of major importance to livestock [9,40]. On a fertilized blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) upland range site cattle occasionally used mat muhly forage more than either blue grama or sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus). However mat muhly comprised less than 5% of the plant ground cover and was not considered a major portion of the cattle diet during any season of the year [23].

In the northern part of its range, mat muhly is rated as good to very good forage for cattle and horses and fairly good for domestic sheep [40]. The palatability of mat muhly for livestock and wildlife species has been rated as follows [12]:

                        MT      ND      UT      WY

Cattle                 Good    Good    Fair    Fair
Domestic Sheep         Fair    Good    Fair    Fair
Horses                 Fair    Good    Fair    Fair
Pronghorn              ----    ----    Fair    ----
Elk                    ----    ----    Fair    ----
Mule deer              ----    ----    Poor    ----
Small mammals          ----    ----    Fair    ----
Small nongame birds    ----    ----    Fair    ----
Upland game birds      ----    ----    Poor    ----
Waterfowl              ----    ----    Poor    ----

Mat muhly is rated fair in energy value and poor in protein value [12].

The degree to which mat muhly provides cover for wildlife species in Utah has been rated as follows [12]:

Small mammals         Fair
Small nongame birds   Fair
Upland game birds     Poor
Waterfowl             Poor

No entry

Mat muhly is valuable as a soil binder [40].

Mat muhly withstands heavy grazing because of its sod-forming habit [40].


SPECIES: Muhlenbergia richardsonis

Mat muhly is a mat-forming, strongly rhizomatous, warm-season, native, perennial grass. It forms clumps as large as 48 inches (122 cm) in diameter and grows as large as 12 inches (30.5 cm) in height by the time of maturity in August [14,21,24,25].


Mat muhly regenerates from rhizomes and by seed [26]. Grilz and Romo [22] reported that mat muhly commonly occurred in a rough fescue (Festuca altaica) prairie seedbank in Saskatchewan after a burn.

Mat muhly grows from moist lowlands to montane prairies, highland meadows, and rocky slopes [5,12,20,25,27]. In the eastern parts of its range mat muhly is found on wet, gravelly soil. In the Intermountain region mat muhly occurs on dry to moist sites. Plants are occasional on open slopes from 5,700 to 11,000 feet (1700-3200 m) [44]. Mat muhly often grows on alkaline soil with textures ranging from sand or gravel to clayey loam. It is one of the more salt-tolerant upland grasses, sometimes forming mixed stands with halophytic species [8]. Mat muhly is found north of 60o latitude only on open, warm microsites that receive high insolation and have dry soil that heats up rapidly [38]. In the Sierra Nevada, mat muhly dominates on high-elevation sites (10,200 to 11,700 feet (3200-3658 m)) with very thin soils [31]. This species does well on disturbed sites [2,12,24,40].

Elevational ranges vary as follows [12]:

6,500 to 9,500 feet (2,000-2,900 m) in Colorado
4,800 to 8,000 feet (1,500-2,400 m) in Montana
7,000 to 10,500 feet (2,100-3,200 m) in Utah
5,000 to 9,900 feet (1,500-3,000 m) in Wyoming

Mat muhly is common on disturbed sites, persisting but becoming less important in late seral stages. The relative abundance of mat muhly increased with the deterioration of tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa) on overgrazed mountain rangeland in Wyoming and the Sierra Nevada[3,33]. On subirrigated and saline lowlands Montana, mat muhly increases in relative abundance with cattle grazing [45]. Mat muhly tolerates competition but not dense shade. It is usually a minor constituent of undisturbed mountain meadows in the Sierra Nevada [34].

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Mat muhly starts to grow late in spring except in the Southwest, were growth starts earlier. Plants bloom from July to September; seeds disperse from August to September [2,12,21,40].


SPECIES: Muhlenbergia richardsonis

Fire does not harm mat muhly to any great extent because the rhizome buds are insulated by soil [4]. There is a greater than 65% chance that at least 50% of the plants in a population will survive a fire [42].

Mat muhly occurs in upland plant communities with a variety of fire regimes. The range of fire intervals reported for some species that dominate communities where mat muhly occurs are listed below. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".

Community dominant    Range of fire intervals (years)
Utah juniper          10-30 
  (Juniperus osteosperma) 
ponderosa pine        30-41
  (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum}
quaking aspen         7-10
  (Populus tremuloides)
Engelmann spruce      >150
  (Picea engelmannii)

Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Muhlenbergia richardsonis

Mat muhly is top-killed by fire. It is a warm-season species, so the period of green-up and highest susceptibility to fire injury maybe late spring and early summer [28].

No entry

It usually takes 5 to 10 years for mat muhly to recover to prefire frequency or coverage after fire [2,42]. On a grassland in quaking aspen parkland in east-central Alberta, annual early spring burning increased the percentage of seedheads present and seedhead density for mat muhly [1,2], though the increases were not statistically significant. Mat muhly was classed as an "increaser." Percent cover was 0.9 on unburned plots and 1.3 on burned plots. The difference was significant at p<0.01 [2]. A prescribed spring burn on a undisturbed northwestern Minnesota prairie stimulated flowering in mat muhly [30]. After a spring fire on a blue juniper-blue grama rangeland in New Mexico, the abundance of mat muhly did not change, perhaps because there was not much of it present on the site [15].

On a montane Sierra Nevada meadow, changes in mat muhly cover did not differ significantly between burned and unburned plots (p=0.44). The mean change in mat muhly percent cover from 1987 to 1988 (postfire) was as follows (s.e. in parentheses) [7]:

      Burned plots(n=8)    Unburned plots(n=11)    
      0.28 (0.56)          1.00 (0.71)               
On nearby plots measured after the fire, mean percent cover of mat muhly was significantly greater for burned than unburned plots (p=.05). The difference could be due to prefire differences or fire effects. Mean estimated percent cover was as follows:
      Burned plots(n=8)    Unburned plots(n=11)
      3.80 (2.0)           0.25 (0.25)                       

No entry

Mat muhly is "resistant" to fire-caused mortality [42]. It may be more vulnerable in late spring and early summer than at other times of the year [28].

Muhlenbergia richardsonis: References

1. Anderson, Howard A. 1978. Annual burning and vegetation in the aspen parkland of east central Alberta. In: Dube, D. E., compiler. Fire ecology in resource management: Workshop proceedings; 1977 December 6-7; [Location unknown]. Information Report NOR-X-210. Edmonton, AB: Environment Canada; Canadian Forestry Service, Northern Forest Research Centre: 2:3. Abstract. [317]
2. Anderson, Howard G.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1980. Effects of annual burning on grassland in the aspen parkland of east-central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany. 58: 985-996. [3499]
3. Beetle, Alan A. 1962. Range survey in Teton County, Wyoming: Part 2. Utilization and condition classes. Bull. 400. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Agricultural Experiment Station. 38 p. [418]
4. Benedict, Nathan B. 1984. Classification and dynamics of subalpine meadow ecosystems in the southern Sierra Nevada. In: Warner, Richard E.; Hendrix, Kathleen M., eds. California riparian systems: Ecology, conservation, and productive management: Proceedings of the conference; 1981 September 17-19; Davis, CA. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press: 92-96. [5829]
5. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]
6. Blackburn, W. H.; Beall, R.; Bruner, A.; [and others]. 1975. Controlled fire as a management tool in the pinyon-juniper woodland, Nevada. Annual Progress Report FY 1975. Unpublished report on file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 77 p. [453]
7. Boyd, Robert S.; Woodward, Roy A.; Walter, Gary. 1993. Fire effects on a montane Sierra Nevada meadow. California Fish and Game. 70(3): 115-125. [24152]
8. Coupland, R. T. 1992. Mixed prairie. In: Coupland, R. T., ed. Natural grasslands: Introduction and western hemisphere. Ecosystems of the World 8A. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishers B. V.: 151-182. [23825]
9. Coupland, Robert T.; Brayshaw, T. Christopher. 1953. The fescue grassland in Saskatchewan. Ecology. 34(2): 386-405. [701]
10. Crosswhite, Frank S.; Crosswhite, Carol D. 1997. Muhly grasses and the Muhlenberg family, with notes on the Pietistic ecology. Desert Plants. 3-13. [27433]
11. Dealy, J. Edward. 1971. Habitat characteristics of the Silver Lake mule deer range. Res. Pap. PNW-125. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 99 p. [782]
12. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
13. Dix, R. L.; Smeins, F. E. 1967. The prairie, meadow, and marsh vegetation of Nelson County, North Dakota. Canadian Journal of Botany. 45: 21-58. [5528]
14. Dodd, J, D.; Coupland, R. T. 1966. Vegetation of saline areas in Sackatchewan. Ecology. 47(6): 958-968. [11209]
15. Dwyer, Don D.; Pieper, Rex D. 1967. Fire effects on blue grama--pinyon-juniper rangeland in New Mexico. Journal of Range Management. 20: 359-362. [833]
16. Eckert, R. E. 1975. Improvement of mountain meadows in Nevada. Research Report. Reno, NV: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Land Managment. 45 p. [8124]
17. Eddy, Thomas L.; Harriman, Neil A. 1992. Muhlenbergia richardsonis in Wisconsin. The Michigan Botanist. 31(1): 39-40. [29250]
18. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
19. Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1973. Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-8. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 417 p. [961]
20. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
21. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
22. Grilz, Perry L.; Romo, J. T. 1995. Management considerations for controlling smooth brome in fescue prairie. Natural Areas Journal. 15(2): 148-156. [25741]
23. Havstad, Kris; Pieper, Rex D.; Donart, Gary B.; {and others]. 1979. Cattle diets on a fertilized blue grama upland range site. Journal of Range Management. 32(5): 398-401. [4646]
24. Hitchcock, A. S. 1951. Manual of the grasses of the United States. Misc. Publ. No. 200. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Administration. 1051 p. [2nd edition revised by Agnes Chase in two volumes. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.]. [1165]
25. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur; Ownbey, Marion. 1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular cryptograms, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 p. [1169]
26. Kartesz, John T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume I--checklist. 2nd ed. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 622 p. [23877]
27. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
28. Lent, Steve. 1984. Developing prescriptions for burning western juniper slash. In: Proceedings--western juniper management short course; 1984 October 15-16; Bend, OR. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, Extension Service and Department of Rangeland Resources: 77-90. [1440]
29. Maine Department of Conservation, Natural Resources Information and Mapping Center. 1997. Maine's rare, threatened, and endangered plants. In: Maine Department of Conservation, [Online]. Available: [2000, June 20]. [35090]
30. Pemble, R. H.; Van Amburg, G. L.; Mattson, Lyle. 1981. Intraspecific variation in flowering activity following a spring burn on a northwestern Minnesota prairie. In: Stuckey, Ronald L.; Reese, Karen J., eds. The prairie peninsula--in the "shadow" of Transeau: Proceedings, 6th North American prairie conference; 1978 August 12-17; Columbus, OH. Ohio Biological Survey: Biological Notes No. 15. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, College of Biological Sciences: 235-240. [3435]
31. Pemble, Richard Hoppe. 1970. Alpine vegetation in the Sierra Nevada of California as lithosequences and in relation to local site factors. Davis, CA: University of California. 311 p. Dissertation. [3950]
32. Pieper, Rex D. 1970. Species utilization and botanical composition of cattle diets on pinyon-juniper grassland. Bulletin 566. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 16 p. [4519]
33. Ratliff, Raymond D. 1982. A meadow site classification for the Sierra Nevada, California. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-60. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 16 p. [1941]
34. Ratliff, Raymond D. 1985. Meadows in the Sierra Nevada of California: state of knowledge. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-84. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 52 p. [8275]
35. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
36. Redmann, R. E. 1972. Plant communities and soils of an eastern North Dakota prairie. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 99(2): 65-76. [3639]
37. Reed, John F. 1952. The vegetation of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park, Wyoming. The American Midland Naturalist. 48(3): 700-729. [1949]
38. Schwarz, Arthur G.; Thorpe, Jeffrey P.; Redmann, Robert E. 1988. Isolated grasslands in the boreal forest region of western Canada. In: Davis, Arnold; Stanford, Geoffrey, eds. The prairie: roots of our culture; foundation of our economy: Proceedings, 10th North American prairie conference; 1986 June 22-26; Denton, TX. Dallas, TX: Native Prairie Association of Texas: 01.09: 1-4. [25577]
39. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 10 p. [20090]
40. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1937. Range plant handbook. Washington, DC. 532 p. [2387]
41. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1994. Plants of the U.S.--alphabetical listing. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 954 p. [23104]
42. Volland, Leonard A.; Dell, John D. 1981. Fire effects on Pacific Northwest forest and range vegetation. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Range Management and Aviation and Fire Management. 23 p. [2434]
43. Weber, William A.; Wittmann, Ronald C. 1996. Colorado flora: eastern slope. 2nd ed. Nowot, CO: University Press of Colorado. 524 p. [27572]
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45. Zacek, Joseph C.; Hunter, Harold E.; Bown, T. A.; Ross, Robert L. 1977. Montana grazing guides. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 12 p. [2687]

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