Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Needleleaf Witchgrass - Dichanthelium aciculare   (Desvaux ex Poiret) Gould & Clark
Members of Poaceae:
Members of Dichanthelium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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Author(Desvaux ex Poiret) Gould & Clark
DistributionCoastal Plain and Piedmont. The map does not reflect the recent split from D. aciculare of D. filiramum (which see). Specimens of D. aciculare sensu stricto, annotated by R. LeBlond, occur in Anson, Dare (Roanoke Island), Greene, Hoke, Moore, Pamlico, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland, and Union counties. Specimens of D. "aciculare" from elsewhere need to be re-examined.

Southern NJ to MO and OK, south to FL and TX.
AbundanceFrequent in most of the Coastal Plain; uncommon to infrequent in the Piedmont.
HabitatDry to xeric, poor sandy soil of pine-oak sandhills, Carolina bay rims, roadsides, powerlines, old fields.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting May-October. As with most witchgrasses, there are 2 distinct flowering periods: a vernal period and an autumnal period.
IdentificationThis species is one foot or less tall, with slender leaves which usually are inrolled for much of their length -- making them look "needle-like", as the common name describes.
Taxonomic CommentsCareful work by Richard LeBlond has elevated the various subspecies of D. aciculare in FNA to full species status.

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)Needleleaf Rosette Grass is more often used than Needleleaf Witchgrass, but this website and Weakley (2018) prefer to used Witchgrass as the group name.
State RankS4? [S5]
Global RankG5
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