Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Heller's Witchgrass - Dichanthelium oligosanthes   (J.A. Schultes) Gould
Members of Dichanthelium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
Author(J.A. Schultes) Gould
DistributionCoastal Plain and Sandhills; a few Piedmont records -- Granville and Rowan counties so far.

NH to Ont and MN, south to FL and TX.
AbundanceUncommon to fairly common in the Coastal Plain, but very rare in the eastern and central Piedmont.
HabitatDry to xeric sandy soil in oak and pine-oak woodlands, clearings, roadsides, powerlines. Mafic glades and barrens in the Piedmont.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting late April-October.
IdentificationThe stems of this species grow 1-3 feet tall, with relatively few (5-7) leaves that are mostly 5-12 mm wide. The lower portions of the stems often spread parallel to the ground, while the middle and upper portions stand erect. The stems and leaf undersides may be glabrous to short-pubescent. Autumnal plants have dense "bunchy" fascicles of short secondary leaves. Vernal plants of D. ravenelii are quite similar, but they always have velvety pubescent undersides of the leaves and bearded stem nodes (vs. glabrous or sparsely pubescent in D. oligosanthes).
Taxonomic CommentsTwo varieties occur in NC -- the nominate one and the very rare var. scribnerianum.

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 (2018), 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)Heller's Rosette Grass, Few-flowered Rosette-panicgrass (!)
State RankS3?
Global RankG5
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