Panicum from Mark, Georgia

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Switch cane, or a non-native bamboo?

I live in Roswell, GA on a small pond (~1 acre) with a small patch of undeveloped forest. I have noticed what looks like switch cane appearing in my forest and on the edge of my little bog. I walk my dogs on a set of Chattahoochee riverside trails where I have observed similar canes growing (understory). They are never taller than about six feet and have thin (1/4″) stems. I have found at least 30 new plants or small clumps at home, coincidentally where my mutts like to wander and dig. I patrol my forest cutting out invasive or problem plants, and can vouch that they showed up within the last two months. They are seeding already and seem to be spreading downhill.

It looks a lot like switch cane… or arrow bamboo. What I need now is to find out if I should gleefully encourage and spread my new cane friends (streambank!), ignore a lookalike, or eliminate an invasive bamboo before it gets established.

Many thanks!

Hi Mark,

actually this is not a bamboo. It is a perennial grass in the genus Panicum, sometimes placed in the genus Dichanthelium. I am not certain which species it is – the choices seem to be Panicum polyanthes, Panicum commutatum, or Panicum clandestinum. They differ in subtle ways that I cannot determine from images. Searches on the internet may help. This is a native grass and not generally considered to be invasive. It does not grow as tall as 6 feet but it can occasionally reach 3 to 3.5 feet tall. I’m rather sure that deer love it.


Dr. Steven Hill, Botanist, SCNPS

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