Panicum dichotomiflorum (Fall Panic Grass)
|Also known as:||Smooth Witchgrass|
|Habitat:||sun; average to moist soil; roadsides, waste places, fields, shores, banks, gravel pits, open woods|
|Fruiting season:||August - October|
|Plant height:||1 to 6 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Erect branching cluster 3 to 16 inches long at the top of the stem, at branch tips and arising from leaf axils, the lower branches of a cluster often partially hidden in the leaf sheath. Panicle branches are up to 6 inches long, ascending to spreading, with a few to several spikelets (flower clusters) mostly appressed to one side of the branch. Spikelets are 2.2 to 3.8 mm (to ~1/6 inch) long, broadest just below the middle, green to purple, and have 2 florets but appear single-flowered. Spikelet stalks are typically shorter than the spikelet.
At the base of a spikelet is a pair of bracts (glumes), the lower glume ¼ to 1/3 as long as the spikelet, rounded to pointed at the tip and 0 to 3-veined, the upper glume as long as the spikelet, 7 to 9-veined, hairless, tapering to a pointed tip. Surrounding a floret is a pair of bracts (lemma and palea), the lower lemma like the upper glume and sterile; the lower palea is insignificant. The upper lemma is fertile, shorter than the upper glume, shiny and hardened, pointed at the tip, the edges rolled around the edges of the similar palea.
Leaves and stems:
Stem leaves are alternate, erect to spreading, straight to floppy, flat to somewhat wavy, 4 to 25 inches long, 3 to 25 mm (to 1 inch) wide, tapering to a pointed tip, usually hairless on both surfaces, sometimes sparsely long-hairy. Sheaths are usually hairless, sometimes sparsely long-hairy. The ligule (membrane where the leaf joins the sheath) is a fringe of hairs up to 2 mm long. Nodes are hairless.
Stems are hairless, usually freely branched, erect to ascending or more often prostrate from the base and arising at a lower node (geniculate), and few to several from the base forming clumps, and may root from the lower node in wetter soils.
Fall Panic Grass is an annual warm season grass native to much of eastern North America, though commonly weedy, popping up on roadsides, in farm fields and other areas with disturbed soils. It even volunteered in our own garden. While it is said to reach a maximum height of about 6 feet, it is more commonly half that (or less). It is distinguished by its overall hairlessness (occasionally sparsely long-hairy); clump-forming habit, stems commonly spreading from the base and rising at the lower node (geniculate); ligule a fringe of hairs up to 2 mm long; panicle branches ascending to spreading, the lower branches often partially hidden in the sheath; spikelets 2.2 to 3.8 mm long, hairless, pointed at the tip, usually appressed to one side of the branch; lower glume ¼ to 1/3 as long as the spikelet.
There are 3 recognized subspecies of Panicum dichotomoflorum: subsp. bartowense, restricted to the Gulf Coast states from Mississippi to Florida, has sheaths covered in stiff hairs that have enlarged pimple-like bases (papillose); subsp. puritanorum, restricted to Atlantic coastal areas and the southern end of Lake Michigan, has spikelets only 1.8 to 2.2 mm long and spikelet stalks are typically more than 3 mm long; subsp. dichotomiflorum, present throughout North America including Minnesota, is as described above, lacking papillose-based hairs, spikelets 2.2 to 3.8 mm long, and spikelet stalks typically shorter than 3 mm long.
We suspect Fall Panic Grass is under-reported in the state.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Fall Panic Grass plant
- Fall Panic Grass plant
- Fall Panic Grass plants ©Daniel L. Nickrent
- Fall Panic Grass volunteer in the garden
- panicle partially enclosed in the sheath
- scan of upper stem
- scan of panicle
Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Houston counties and in his garden. Photo by Daniel L. Nickrent via PhytoImages.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?