Japanese stiltgrass and nimblewill

Nimblewill is the fine-textured grass on the right, compared to Japanese stiltgrass (left). Photo: Betty Marose

Updated: July 16, 2021

Life cycle

Nimblewill (Muhlenbergia schreberi) is a native, warm-season perennial grass.

Growth habit 

Spreading habit; grows up to 1 1/2 ft tall; slow to green up in the spring; it turns brown early in the fall and forms circular, straw-like dead patches when dormant. It has a pale-green color and a fine texture.

Reproduction 

Underground stolons and seeds

Conditions that favor growth

Thrives in shade in infertile soil but will move into sunnier areas.

Photos

Growth habit

Nimblewill plants with seedheads

Photo: Ohio State Weed Lab, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Habit in a lawn

Nimblewill plants have a fine texture in a lawn. 

Photo: Ohio State Weed Lab, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Roots

Nimblewill roots and stolons

Photo: Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis, Bugwood.org

Dormant nimblewill

Nimblewill goes dormant in the winter and looks like straw.

Photo: University of Maryland Extension

Management in lawns

Cultural lawn care practices

Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment. 

Mechanical management

Dig it out. It has a shallow root system but will regrow from any pieces of the root left in the ground.

Chemical treatment in lawns

Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these lawn herbicide precautions first.

  • Herbicides for controlling perennial grass weeds are limited and usually available to lawn care companies and landscapers. Small infestations can be dug out or sprayed with a non-selective herbicide. Reseed the area after you are certain that you have 100% kill. Another option is a selective herbicide with the active ingredient mesotrione (Tenacity).
  • Tenacity (Mesotrione) can be difficult to find in stores but there is some online availability. It can be expensive, and the label instructions are geared more for commercial use than for homeowners. However, it is labeled for home lawns. It is important to mix the product according to the label directions. Another option is to contact a lawn company for control of this weed.
  • The herbicide Tenacity (Mesotrione) can cause temporary whitening or bleaching of the weeds and surrounding turfgrass. According to the product label “Tenacity may cause temporary whitening of turfgrass foliage. In general, symptoms appear five to seven days after application and lasts for several weeks.” This is not considered herbicide damage but occurs due to the herbicide's mode of action. Tenacity inhibits a plant enzyme that is essential for photosynthesis and interferes with chlorophyll production. The grass will outgrow this discoloration.
mesotrione herbicide injury on grass
Close-up of grass blades bleached from Mesotrione