Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Blue Witchgrass - Dichanthelium caerulescens   (Hackel ex A.S. Hitchcock) Correll
Members of Poaceae:
Members of Dichanthelium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Family Poaceae
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Author(Hackel ex A.S. Hitchcock) Correll
DistributionPrimarily the Outer Banks/barrier islands; also on the nearby mainland.

Coastal Plain, southern NJ to southern FL and southern MS; Bahamas, western Cuba.
AbundanceRare to uncommon. The NCNHP database has 18 records, mostly extant and many of good or excellent quality. This is a State Threatened species owing to its Global Rank of G2G3. However, it seems clear the species globally is not this rare, considering its fairly broad range.
HabitatMaritime wet grasslands and margins of interdune marshes, wet pine savannas.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-October.
IdentificationIn the vernal phase, this species is slender and lanky, with few leaves on a glabrous stem. In the autumnal phase, the stems are longer, branched or not, with dense fascicles of leaves (and florets) from leaf axils. Such plants may exceed 3 feet tall/long. At all times it tends to stand weakly erect, supported by adjacent vegetation. Once learned, it is a highly distinct witchgrass.
Taxonomic CommentsIn most older texts, lumped within a catch-all Panicum dichotomum.

A note about Dichanthelium: This genus is not impossible to identify to species! But it takes applied effort over a period of time in order to learn the various species and what their morphological limits are. We strongly recommend that you read the introduction to the treatment in Weakley et al. (2023), written by Richard LeBlond. LeBlond has made order out of near chaos, and his keys work very well for our plants. Most Dichanthelium taxa ("Dichs") do not grow everywhere indiscrimminately, but prefer certain well-defined habitats. Note that most species produce flowers/fruits twice a year -- a vernal period and an autumnal period -- and that measurements of spikelets and achenes are taken from vernal plants. Some species also have a third, or summer, period. In the vernal period there is a single inflorescence at the tip of the stem. In the autumnal period, plants produce elongate branches with bunched (congested) leaves and so look quite different from vernal plants. Inflorescences are produced in leaf axils as well as at the tips of branches. NOTE: Older texts had these species essentially all within the very large genus Panicum. "Dich" species are typically named as "Witchgrass" and Panicum species named as "Panicgrass".
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS2
Global RankG2G3
State StatusT
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieDare County, 2013, autumnal plant, margin of interdune wet marsh, SW of Buxton. DareBILPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieDare County, 2014, vernal plant, wet maritime grassland between Cape Point and Frisco. DareBILPhoto_natural
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