Leafy Satin Grass
- Full sun to part shade
- Average to high moisture settings
- 36" tall, 18" to 30" wide clumps
- Garden or meadow settings
I’m at the very start of learning the identities of the grasses that grow in various ecosystems in and around the Perth gardens.
This particular species has been a bit of a mystery for a while now. In the early life of the vegetable garden, quite a few young plants from my very first year of learning to grow native species from seed ended up tucked into the new beds one fall. The labeling wasn’t what it would have needed to be to offer reliable guidance about which species were where the following spring
A couple of the species I had planted out were grasses so, when small clumps of these appeared the following spring, I wasn’t sure whether or not they were some of the ones that I had planted.
They have been shifted around from here to there as the gardens matured and the remnants of the previous rhizomatous grasses dug out over time. They were always a bit slow to appear in the spring, so they were lifted more than once during the spring weeding but their roots were so clumpy and tight, and their summer foliage quite lush, that I kept wondering what species they actually were.
With assistance from a combination of the reference book ‘Grasses and Rushes of Maine’ with its detailed identification keys, and inaturalist for confirmation, I finally concluded that they are Muhlenbergia Mexicana, Leafy Satin Grass. While technically rhizomatous (spreading by underground stems) they have been mostly clump forming in the garden setting. Now that I know what to look for, I’ve spotted a couple of patches growing in the seasonally flooded hydro cut through the woods. In that setting they seem to be more inclined to weave in and out among the other species, rather than forming tight clumps.
As a warm season grass, these stay lushly green through the summer. They enjoy their sunshine and, while most online sites describe them as shoreline species that require consistent moisture, they have been perfectly happy in the nursery bed in the vegetable garden for a few years now.
They are a species that is known for appearing after disturbance and are often recommended for shoreline restorations, since their dense roots have the capacity to stabilize loose soil and they mature fairly quickly from seed.
They also, apparently, have a limited lifespan and eventually yield to longer lived species.
If you are working with an area with regular, or excess, moisture these would make lovely companions for Swamp Milkweed, Joe-Pye-Weed, Boneset, Giant Goldenrod, Flat Topped White Aster, Lance-Leaf Selfheal and Allegheny Monkeyflower (all of which are thriving together in the hydro-cut I mentioned). Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia and White Turtlehead would also make great members of that community.