Muhlenbergia cuspidata
Plains muhly
Image of Muhlenbergia cuspidata

Photo by Kitty Kohout 

Key Characteristics

Tufted grass arising from hard, knotty bases (not rhizomes) with bulb like offshoots, found around cliffs in Keweenaw County; stems wiry and slender, terminating in a narrow panicle; leaves very narrow, strongly ascending, with very small ligules (0.5 mm).

Status and Rank

  • State Status: X
  • State Rank: SX
  • Global Rank: G5


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Distribution map for Muhlenbergia cuspidata

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


This species is known only from two collections made more than a century ago on the Keweenaw Peninsula, when this species was found on dry bluffs or cliffs. Elsewhere, this Great Plains species is known to occur in neutral to alkaline soils in dry prairies, on open gravelly or stony prairie hills and loess bluffs.

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

No data are available for Michigan collection; in the main portion of its range, it occurs with short-grass prairie species such as side-oats grama grass.


The principal need at present is a status survey along the Keweenaw Peninsula and other potential sites in the western Upper Peninsula where apparently extensive habitat exists. If found, it would likely protection of occupied sites from trampling from intensive recreational activities like rock climbing.

General Survey Guidelines

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgement of the investigator.

Survey Methods

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Jul 20, 2018]


Survey References

Technical References

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