Panicum virgatum – switchgrass

Panicum virgatum – Switchgrass  (F,DM,Any,N, Sun)

It forms a dense columnar foliage clump.  It can spread slowly through rhizomes.  Will stand up to winter, with its dense stalks.  Recommended use back border of prairie grass or hedge former. Airy seed heads in fall add dimension.  It is generally found in mesic (moist) conditions and can have issues depending on if its a sod forming (which wants wetter conditions) versus bunch forming that can be found in upland, drier conditions.

  • seed for birds, cover for ground nesting birds like mourning doves.
  • Blooms:  Fall,  August to September  (F)
  • Moisture: Dry to Medium (DM)  prefers mesic if sod forming.
  • Soil Type:  Any: Sands, Loams, and drained Clays (Any)
  • Range: Native (N)
  • Prefers full sun (S)
  • Started as: Seed  7-10  days,  needs 30 days of cold stratification.
  • Foliage:  Medium green with a hint of blue in summer- golden in fall.

2021  Purchased seed from Prairie Nursery

–  Sown outdoors on 5/1 with a good rain drenching the area on 5/3.

Role in Ecosystem

Found in bluestem and grama prairies, its seeds are important food source for upland game birds, songbirds and small mammals.  Also provides excellent cover for loafing, night roosting, escape from predators, protection from blizzards, and nesting [65].  Literature shows that mourning doves may nest in these grasses. [29].   Here’s to hoping I can get a nice stand!

Note switchgrass is susceptible to clipping from grazing and will decrease over time when grazed.  It has an early elevation of shoot apical meristems and a high ratio of reproductive to vegetative culms. [9,74]

USFS Info about its general botanical characteristics.

Switchgrass is a native, erect, coarse, warm-season perennial grass. Foliage height of mature plants is mostly between 3 and 5 feet (0.9-1.5 m),; the inflorescence, a 6- to 18-inch-long (15-46 cm) open panicle, often extends to a height of 5 to 7 feet (1.5-2.1 m) [76,77]. Switchgrass has both sodand bunch-forming ecotypes. Bunch-forming ecotypes are generally encountered on uplands, while sod-forming ecotypes occur on lowlands [61,75]. Switchgrass growing on Valentine fine sand in the Nebraska Sandhills is similar to sod-forming ecotypes of the Southeast in that plants develop from both vertically and horizontally oriented rhizomes [10]. Switchgrass roots may reach depths of 10 feet (3 m) or more [75].

An amateur gardener who loves to watch the garden grow.

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