Muhly Grass Mealybug

Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), sometimes known as sweetgrass, is a beautiful ornamental grass celebrated for its displays of pink, purple or white flowers in the late-summer and fall.

Pink muhly grass (left) and ‘White Cloud’ muhly grass (right) are popular ornamental grasses because of their wispy floral displays and durability in the landscape

Pink muhly grass (left) and ‘White Cloud’ muhly grass (right) are popular ornamental grasses because of their wispy floral displays and durability in the landscape.
S. Cory Tanner, ©2018, Clemson Extension

‘White Cloud’ muhly grass

Pink muhly grass (left) and ‘White Cloud’ muhly grass (right) are popular ornamental grasses because of their wispy floral displays and durability in the landscape.
S. Cory Tanner, ©2018, Clemson Extension

Native to the coastal plain from Connecticut to Texas, this perennial, clump-forming grass is a tough and reliable landscape plant in the Southeast. As a result, it has become very popular in South Carolina landscapes. Additionally, wild muhly grass is one of the primary components of the famed sweetgrass baskets of the SC Lowcountry.

Muhly grass is generally pest and disease free, making it a low maintenance perennial, but a potential pest was recently discovered for the first time in SC. The ‘muhly grass mealybug,’ as we’re calling it, doesn’t have an official common name. Its scientific name is Stemmatomerinx acircula. It was identified from a home landscape planting of muhly grass in the West Ashley area of Charleston county in Fall 2018. According to the USDA, this was the first report of the insect outside of Florida where it is native.

Muhly grass infested with muhly grass mealybug (Stemmatomerinx acircula).

Muhly grass infested with muhly grass mealybug (Stemmatomerinx acircula).
Merle Shepard, ©2018, Clemson University

Closeup of a muhly grass mealybug (Stemmatomerinx acircula) on a leaf blade.

Closeup of a muhly grass mealybug (Stemmatomerinx acircula) on a leaf blade.
Merle Shepard, ©2018, Clemson University

Very little is known about this insect’s biology, distribution or pest status, so Clemson University researchers are beginning work to determine how widespread is it in SC, if it is likely to spread farther, and if it will become a significant or occasional pest of muhly grass or other plants. The results of this research will inform future pest management decisions (if needed) to maintain the use of muhly grass in the landscape.

You can help! If you see muhly grass plants with clumps of white fuzz on their leaf blades (see photos), take a digital picture and send it along with location information (ideally GPS coordinates) to Cory Tanner, shannt@clemson.edu. If using a smart phone, turn on location services for the camera app before taking the picture and GPS coordinates will be automatically added to the picture you send.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

Factsheet Number

Newsletter

Categories

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This