• Panicum virgatum - Switchgrass

    $19.99


    "Switchgrass is a perennial, warm-season ornamental grass that is native to North Carolina. This plant is one of the more dominant species of the tallgrass prairie, but it is found all over North America growing along moist roadsides, streambanks, and woodlands.   It reaches 3-4 feet and with its flower plumes it can measure up to 7 feet tall. It forms a dense columnar foliage clump that can spread slowly through creeping rhizomes and remains attractive year-round.

    "Mass plant this grass in the back of a border, or use as a screen.  It is effective as an accent plant in a native or water garden. This plant is resistant to deer grazing, drought, erosion, and air pollution.  It is also slightly salt tolerant, withstands occasional flooding, and can be planted near black walnut trees." (North Carolina Extension)




    Panicum Virgatum Botany by Dr. John Hilty




    Cultivation:

    "Plant it in the full sun moist clay or sandy soils. Partial shade is acceptable but it will not grow as tightly and may flop over.  It has a bluish cast in the summer and is topped by finely-textured, pink-tinged, branched flower panicles that hover over the foliage like a cloud. After the flowers go to seed leave them on the plant to provide a winter food source for birds and small mammals.  The leaves will turn attractive shades of yellow-orange in the fall and then leaves will fade to light brown and persist through the winter. Prune the plants back severely in late winter to early spring. " (North Carolina Extension)


    Faunal Associations: 

    "Various insects feed on Switch Grass and other Panicum spp. (Panic Grasses). These include the caterpillars of such skippers as Atrytone logan (Delaware Skipper), Hesperia leonardus (Leonard's Skipper), Hesperia sassacus (Indian Skipper), Poanes hobomok (Hobomok Skipper), Polites themistocles (Tawny-edged Skipper), and Wallengrenia egremet (Northern Broken-Dash). Other insect feeders include the larvae of grass leaf-miner moths (Elachista spp.), the larvae of gall flies, plants bugs (Collaria spp.), stink bugs, Sipha flava (Yellow Sugar Cane Aphid) and other aphids, leafhoppers (Graminella spp., Polyamia spp.), mealybugs, leaf beetles, thrips (Chirothrips spp.), and grasshoppers. See the Insect Table for a more complete list of these species. The seeds of Switch Grass and other Panicum spp. (Panic Grasses) are eaten by a variety of birds, including wetland birds, upland gamebirds, and granivorous songbirds (see the Bird Table for a listing of these species). The seeds of these grasses are also eaten by the Prairie Deer Mouse and wild House Mouse (Whitaker, 1966). The very young foliage of this grass is edible to cattle and other hoofed mammalian herbivores (Georgia, 1913). Because Switch Grass remains upright during the winter and often forms large clumps, it provides good cover for various birds and mammals during this time of year." (Hilty)


     

    The Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) is a cosmopolitan lark that feeds on the seeds of panic grasses such as Panicum virgatum. It can be distinguished from other larks by its black and yellow face pattern.




    Uses



    The extensive fibrous root system of switchgrass makes it ideal for soil conservation and restoration work. It naturally improves soil organic matter and prevents erosion by anchoring itself deep within the soil. The United States Department of Agriculture writes it is "used for erosion control in critical areas to stabilize soil in strip-mines, sand dunes, or along dikes or gullies.... It can also be used as a forage, hay, riparian buffer, field windbreak, biofuel source, or as nesting and cover for wildlife in both wet and dry soils." (USDA)


    Type: Ornamental grass
    Family: Poaceae
    Zone: 5 to 9
    Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
    Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
    Bloom Time: July to February
    Bloom Description: Reddish-pink
    Sun: Full sun to part shade
    Water: Medium to wet
    Maintenance: Low
    Suggested Use: Rain Garden
    Flower: Showy
    Leaf: Colorful, Good Fall
    Other: Winter Interest
    Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Wet Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution

    Covers
    1. "Vingergras (Panicum virgatum 'Squaw') - Le Clos de Coudray - Étaimpuis {september 2010}" by westher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
    2. "Panicum Virgatum" by Chhe (talk) (Copyright July 2009) License: Public Domain
    3. "Form" by Forest & Kim Starr is licensed under CC BY 4.0
    4. "Panicum virgatum" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    "Shore Lark" by Andreas Trepte (Copyright 20 October 2009) License: CC BY-SA 2.5
     Extensive fibrous root system image: "Root system of switchgrass grown at the Land Institute" by Dehaan - Steve Renich, (Copyright 11 November 2008), License: CC BY 3.0

    John Hilty botany, cultivation, faunal associations: John Hilty, "Switch grass", Illinois Wildflowers, the publisher, Copyright 2004-2019. Accessed 2 February 2022
    High Tide Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cape May Plant Materials Center. Cape May, NJ 08210 Published January, 2014.

    Conservation Information Author: Erik N. Vegeto

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