South Dakota Native Plant Research
Poaceae : Panicum virgatum

Poaceae : Panicum virgatum


Download Seed: Spikelets of switchgrass are 3.5-6 mm long. (59 KB)

Download Seedling image (52 KB)

Download Mature plants (1.2 MB)

Download Vegetative: A patch of wedged-shaped hairs are found above the ligule on the flat leaf blades. (878 KB)

Download Inflorescence (557 KB)

Family Name


Common Name


Native American Name

Lakota: pȟeži blaskaska


Panicum virgatum is a rhizomatous perennial clump-forming grass, with multiple, erect hollow culms, that grows to 1.5 m tall. The leaves are all alternate, ascending to droopy, the leaf blades flat to rolled upward, 15-55 cm long and 5-11 mm wide, smooth to hair covered, particularly on the upper surface above the ligule. The ligule is 2-4 mm long consisting of a fringe of hairs on a membranous base. The inflorescence is a very open and diffuse panicle, 20-45 cm long, with slightly compressed, purplish spikelets, containing 1 fertile and 1 often staminate floret, surrounded by unequal bracts (glumes), the smaller 2.3-4 mm long and the larger 3.3-6 mm long, narrowly egg-shaped and tapering to a pointed tip. The glumes spread apart as the flower develops, with the stamens and styles becoming visible. A single grain develops in each spikelet. Switchgrass blooms from July through September in moist lowlands and prairies throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Switchgrass can add a dramatic element to a native plant garden. They produce a purplish haze as the panicles develop and the plants become an attractive yellow as they mature. If left to overwinter the plants provide homes and food for several bird species.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed in August-September

Germination: The seeds germinate without pretreatment and can be spwn in spring or fall.

Vegetative Propagation: As the plants develop, the rhizomes produce new shoots that can be easily transplanted.

Soils: Sandy, sandy loam, to clay loams.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Prefers moist areas but tolerates medium dry conditions.

Poaceae : Panicum virgatum