Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Switchgrass - Panicum virgatum var. virgatum   L.
Members of Poaceae:
Members of Panicum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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DistributionLow to mid Mountains only. With the recognition of Panicum virgatum var. cubense and P. virgatum var. spissum, there remain only a small number of NC records of the nominate P. virgatum var. virgatum. The Cumberland and Hoke County and Piedmont records are deliberate introductions (planted by DOT) or adventive.

Que. to ND, south to northern FL and TX. Primarily midwestern prairies, but also river scour zones and rock outcrops eastward.
AbundanceApparently rare as a native plant in NC.
HabitatNatural habitats are rock outctops, open slopes, cliffs near waterfalls, and river scour zones. Other montane specimens were collected at "Chestnut Oak woodland" and "roadside." Variety virgatum is the entity of midwestern tallgrass prairies.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting July-October.
IdentificationDue to unfortunate past lumping by authors, most NC botanists do not realize that var virgatum is the form of switchgrass least often encountered in the state. The nominate variety is native only locally and has been planted widely on roadsides and even in "native grassland" restoration sites. Variety spissum is maritime only. Variety virgatum is taller and more robust in general than var. cubense. Its spikelets are longer (3.2-5 mm vs. 2.8-3.2) and it does not occur in montane seepage bogs.
Taxonomic CommentsSee Identification section.

The genus Panicum in the broad sense was once very large, but with the split of Dichanthelium in the 1980s, it has been reduced to manageable size. In more recent decades, other genera have been split off: Coleataenia, Hymenachne, Kellochloa, and Phanopyrum, as examples. All 6 of these genera can be readily told from each other in the field with just a hand lens. For a more detailed discussion, see the introductory paragraphs in Weakley (2018).
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