An Encounter with Muhlenbergia Torreyi: A Grass That Grows in Circles

Posted by on Mar 25, 2011 in Articles | 0 comments

I had the opportunity to participate in the Grand Canyon Adventure Bus Trip sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research.  It was an unforgettable experience as we toured Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater, and numerous other sites of interest in Arizona and Utah.  We marveled at God’s creative handiwork and were awed by the evidence of His judgment during the Flood.  Though we saw much geology, I, as usual, was especially interested in the plants.

During a walk on one of the nature trails in Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah, several people noticed a type of grass that had formed a ring.  At the time, I was not familiar with it, but information was not far away.  Upon returning to Grand Junction, I checked through my in-basket at AOI.  While glancing through the March 1999 issue of the Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ) in search of articles on plants, a title caught my eyes:  “Ring Muhly – A Grass that Grows in Circles.”  Although my plant books report it as being found a short distance away in northern Arizona but not in Utah, I believe what we saw was Ring Muhly (Muhlenbergia torreyi).

The authors of the article (George F. Howe, Emmett L. Williams, and John R. Meyer) “… suspect that the expanding ring growth pattern helps these colonies obtain unobstructed space (for continued growth) and fresh supplies of mineral nutrients.”  The authors noted, “We inspected several colonies and found that the level of soil inside was often about two cm higher than the soil outside the ring.  Perhaps this difference results from the buildup of old leaves and stems, as well as from airborne soil particles that accumulate inside the arc.”  They went on to suggest:  “Mineral and organic matter may foster the growth of various ephemeral plants which are seen to germinate inside the rungs.”  Ephemeral plants are annuals which only seem to bloom during years of exceptional rainfall, with the seeds remaining dormant in the soil during dry years.

It appears to me that this is another evidence of God’s creative design.  The plant colonizes and improves bare soil and allows for the introduction of other species, sometimes, given sufficient preparation, more permanent species.  Our loving Creator has a purpose in everything and without such a grass the soil would be more subject to wind and water erosion.  Praise be to God!


by Stephen B. Austin

Originally published in the May/June 1999 issue of Think and Believe

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