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Useful Tropical Plants

Panicum virgatum

L.

Poaceae

+ Synonyms

Chasea virgata (L.) Nieuwl.

Eatonia purpurascens Raf.

Ichnanthus glaber Link ex Steud.

Milium virgatum (L.) Lunell

Panicum buchingeri E. Fourn.

Panicum coloratum Kunth

Panicum coloratum Walter◦ Hitchcock

Panicum giganteum Scheele

Panicum glaberrimum Steud.

Panicum havardii Vasey

Panicum ichnanthoides E. Fourn.

Panicum kunthii E. Fourn

Panicum pruinosum Bernh. ex Trin.

Panicum purinisum Bernh. ex Trin.

Common Name: Switch Grass

Panicum virgatum
Young growth of plant at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Photograph by: SEWilco
Creative Commons License
Panicum virgatum Panicum virgatum Panicum virgatum Panicum virgatum Panicum virgatum Panicum virgatum

General Information

Panicum virgatum is a hardy, perennial, rhizomatous, clump-forming grass growing 180 - 220cm tall. . Culms 60-300 cm long.
The plant is sometimes grown in soil stabilization schemes and is a potential source of biomass. There are several named forms, developed for their ornamental value[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Found in many areas of the world, especially in the temperate and subtropical zones, but also in the tropics, especially in the Americas.

Habitat

Found in both wet and dry soils in prairies and open woods, gravel bars and stream banks and along railroad tracks[
352
Title
KemperCentreForHomeGardeningPlantFinder
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic cultivation details, plant uses, habitat etc for several thousand species of plants, mainly from the temperate zone.
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitPerennial
Height1.80 m
PollinatorsWind
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental

Cultivation Details

A plant of the temperate zone, it has spread into the subtropics and tropics. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 17 - 32°c, but can tolerate 6 - 36°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It can be killed by temperatures of -10°c or lower, though new growth can be damaged at -1°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 500 - 1,100mm, but tolerates 350 - 2,700mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Grows in any moderately fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny position[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. A drought resistant plant, it is easily grown in average to wet soils and in full sun to part shade[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 4.9 - 8.2[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The plant has a high risk of becoming a weed in any new area into which it is introduced[
305
Title
Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.hear.org/pier/scientificnames/index.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A very good website detailing weed species that have been introduced into the Pacific Islands.
].
Plants have particularly heavy growth in late spring and early summer[
289
Title
The National Non-Food Crops Centre Crop Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.nnfcc.co.uk/crops/pd.cfm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line information source, with information on over 100 species (as of 2006) of plants being investigated as bio-crops.
].
The plant has the potential to produce the biomass required for production of up to 380 litres of ethanol per metric ton. This gives it the potential to produce over 400 litres of ethanol per hectare, compared to 270 for sugarcane and 160 for corn. However, there is debate on the viability of switchgrass, and other bio-fuels, as an efficient energy source. University of California, Berkeley professor Tad Patzek argues that switchgrass has a negative ethanol fuel energy balance, requiring 45% more fossil energy than the fuel produced[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The plant photosynthesize by a more efficient method than most plants. Called the 'C4 carbon-fixation pathway', this process is particularly efficient at high temperatures, in bright sunlight and under dry conditions[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
As an open pollinated species, switchgrass expresses tremendous genetic diversity, with wide variations in its basic chromosome number (2n = 18), typically ranging from tetraploid to octoploid. Morphologically switchgrass in its southern range can grow to more than 3 m in height, but what is most distinctive is the deep, vigorous root system, which may extend to depths of more than 3.5 m[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].. It reproduces both by seeds and vegetatively and, with its perennial life form, a stand can last indefinitely once established. Standing biomass in root systems may exceed that found aboveground, giving perennial grasses such as switchgrass, an advantage in water and nutrient acquisition even under stressful growing conditions[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal

None known

Agroforestry Uses:

A valuable soil-stabilization plant, it is used as ground cover to control erosion[
289
Title
The National Non-Food Crops Centre Crop Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.nnfcc.co.uk/crops/pd.cfm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line information source, with information on over 100 species (as of 2006) of plants being investigated as bio-crops.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
It can be used as an energy substitute and is often considered a good candidate for bio-fuel, especially ethanol fuel production, due to its hardiness against poor soil and climate conditions, rapid growth and low fertilization and herbicide requirements[
289
Title
The National Non-Food Crops Centre Crop Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.nnfcc.co.uk/crops/pd.cfm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line information source, with information on over 100 species (as of 2006) of plants being investigated as bio-crops.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The plant is sometimes used as a windbreak in crop fields[
289
Title
The National Non-Food Crops Centre Crop Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.nnfcc.co.uk/crops/pd.cfm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line information source, with information on over 100 species (as of 2006) of plants being investigated as bio-crops.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - sow in a nursery seedbed in a sunny position, only just cover the seed and make sure the compost does not become dry. Germination should take place within a week. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots and plant them out when large enough[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Division as the plant comes in to new growth. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade until they are well established before planting them out[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

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