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Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Muhlenbergia asperifolia - scratchgrass

Synonyms: Sporobolus asperifolius

Other Common Names: alkali muhly

Plant Form:Grass

Family: Poaceae

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Max Licher @, Usage Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
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Max Licher @, Usage Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
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Patrick Alexander @, Usage Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
  Grass Description -   Glossary of Grass Terminology

Origin: Native    Season: Warm
Habitat Description: Found in moist meadows, along sandy washes, canyon bottoms, grassy slopes, rocky to sandy slopes and around seeps and hot springs. This grass is a weed of railroad ballast, waste soils, industrial areas, and along expressways.
Plant Communities: Riparian, Disturbed Areas
Elevation: 4000 - 6500 feet

General Description

Desc: M. asperifoliais distinct in being a rhizomotous perennial bunchgrass with open, sparsely-flowered and wispy awnless seedheads. The source of the common name "scratchgrass" becomes evident if you run your hand along the blades.
Identification notes: Perennial 4 to 24 inches tall; diffused seedhead; long slender spreading branches; spikelets awnless, less than 1/8 inch long; scaly rhizomes and occasional stolons; flat blades, somewhat roughened below; stems are erect, branch at the base.
Grass Type: Perennial bunchgrass  Rhizomes: Y  Stolons: Y
Large Dense Clump (> 2 feet): N  Bushy (highly branched): N
Height with Seedheads: 12 to 24 inches
Seedhead Structure: Branched - open and spreading  Seedhead Droops: N
Flowering Period: Jul - Oct

Flower Characteristics

Number of Flowers per Spikelet: One-flowered  Spikelets One-sided: N
Awns: Absent   Three Awns: N  Awns Bent: N

Flower and Seedhead Notes: Seedhead is 2 to 8 inches tall and branched. The hair-like primary branches are 1 to 4-3/4 inches long with the lower branches spreading 30 to 90 degrees from the main axis. Spikelets are purplish or grayish.

Vegetative Characteristics

Blade Hairy: Y  Blade with White Margin: N  Blade Cross Section: Flat  
Blade Notes: The blades are flat, 3/4 to 2 inches long and less than 1/4 inch wide. Blades are rough, especially on the edges.
Sheath Hairy: N  Tuft of Hairs Top of Sheath or Collar: N  Ligules: Membranous and hairy
Auricles (Ear-like lobes at base of blades): N
Vegetative Notes: Sheaths are smooth with transparent margins. Tiny ligules are firm and flat-topped, lined with hairs on the margins.

Forage Value: Due to the low, creeping characteristics of this plant and coarse texture of the leaves, this grass is of little value as a forage plant for cattle.

  Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Version 8.0  
Last Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Content Questions/Comments: Email Mary Barnes  
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