Nimblewill (Muhlenbergia schreberi)


Grass Family (Poaceae)

Other Names:

drop-seed, wire-grass

Origin and Distribution:

Nimblewill is native grass that occurs in the eastern half of North America. It is widespread throughout Ohio. Nimblewill survives best on moist, rich, gravelly soil, and is often troublesome in pastures, lawns, orchards, nurseries and gardens. It is also common in waste places and roadsides

Plant Description:

Nimblewill is a fine textured, mat-forming perennial grass. This species is characterized by its slender stems and erect early season growth, with short, narrow leaves that jut out horizontally in different directions. Nimblewill patches turn a distinctive tan color in winter. This species reproduces by seeds and stolons (horizontal stems at the surface of the ground that root at the nodes).

  • Root System:

    Nimblewill has a fine, fibrous root system

  • Stems:

    Stems are slender, wiry, round and smooth (1/2 to 2 feet long). Early season stems are erect, but sag toward the ground and become spreading with age. Mature stems can root at the nodes and are branched. Branches are short and hug the stems.

  • Leaves:

    Leaves are rolled in the bud. The smooth, grayish- to bluish-green leaf blades (free part of the leaf) are narrow, pointed, flat, and short (1/2 to 2 inches long). Leaf blades are horizontal or point slightly upward. A few hairs are present at the base of the blade near the ligule. The leaf sheath (part of the leaf surrounding the stem) is flattened, hairless and loose. The ligule (projection inside on the top of the sheath) is membranous and short. Auricles (appendages at the top of the sheath) are absent.

  • Flowers:

    Inconspicuous flowers are borne in fine, slender flower heads (2 to 7 inches long) at the ends of branches and from the axils of leaves

  • Fruits and Seeds:

    The chestnut-brown seeds are 1/20 inch long, and spindle-shaped (swollen in the middle and narrower towards each end).

Similar Species:

Nimblewill may be distinguished from wirestem muhly (Muhlenbergia frondosa) by its lack of rhizomes, delicate appearance and shorter stature.


Nimbewill flowers between August and October. This species can form dense, sprawling patches, which turn a light brown after a killing frost. Nimblewill's spring and early summer growth, consisting of short, erect stems and horizontally extended leaves, is very different from its later season growth as the stems become spreading. In turf, where nimblewill is mowed, the plants are more compact and resemble early season growth.

Nimblewill naturally occurs in open woodlands and stream bottomlands. It has moved out of these native habitats, and can be a problem in agronomic crops, where it tolerates some grass herbicides. This species does not tolerate conventional tillage practices.


None known.

Facts and Folklore:

  • Nimblewill's common name, originally spelled 'nimble Will', refers to the speed with which the grass was thought to overtake new areas.

  • Livestock do not find nimblewill palatable.