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Max Licher @
Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Panicum virgatum - switchgrass

Synonyms: Eatonia purpurascens, Ichnanthus glaber, Milium virgatum, Panicum buchingeri, P. giganteum, P. glaberrimum, P. ichnanthoides, P. kunthii

Plant Form:Grass

Family: Poaceae

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Max Licher @
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Max Licher @
  Grass Description -   Glossary of Grass Terminology

Origin: Native    Season: Warm
Habitat Description: Sandy or rocky soil, mostly along water courses or in moist canyons.
Plant Communities: Riparian
Elevation: 3500 - 7000 feet

General Description

Desc: Erect clumping grass from hard, scaly rhizomes, to over 6 feet tall. Seedhead is an open, branched arrangement of spikelets.
Identification notes: Rhizomatous perennial. Seedhead stems rarely branching above the base; spikelets more than 1/8 inch long and rounded; first glume more than half as long as the spikelet.
Grass Type: Perennial bunchgrass  Rhizomes: Y  Stolons: N
Large Dense Clump (> 2 feet): Y  Bushy (highly branched): Y
Height with Seedheads: Greater than 36 inches
Seedhead Structure: Branched - open and spreading  Seedhead Droops: N
Flowering Period: Jun - Sep

Flower Characteristics

Number of Flowers per Spikelet: Multi-flowered  Spikelets One-sided: N
Awns: Absent   Three Awns: N  Awns Bent: N

Flower and Seedhead Notes: The seedhead is open, freely branched, pyramidal, 8 to 16 inches long. Spikelet is slightly laterally compressed, lower floret sterile, upper fertile.

Vegetative Characteristics

Blade Hairy: Y  Blade with White Margin: N  Blade Cross Section: Flat  
Blade Notes: Blades firm, upright, spreading or ascending, to about 1-1/2 feet long, to 3/4 inch wide, linear with a rounded to slightly tapering base, flat, parallel-veined, sometimes hairy, marginally rough.
Sheath Hairy: Y  Tuft of Hairs Top of Sheath or Collar: Y  Ligules: Membranous and hairy
Auricles (Ear-like lobes at base of blades): N
Vegetative Notes: Sheaths longer than lower internodes, sometimes softly hairy, often bearing a marginal fringe of hairs.

Forage Value: Switchgrass is noted for its heavy growth during late spring and early summer. It provides good warm-season pasture and high quality hay for livestock.

  Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Version 8.0  
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2020  
Content Questions/Comments: Email Jeff Schalau  
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