Round-Fruited Panic Grass

Round-fruited_Panic_Grass_jpgThe genus sphaerocarpon means “spherical fruit”.

The Poaceae family is commonly called the grass family and grasses in this genus, Panicum, are commonly called panic grasses.  The name is presumably derived from its more or less diffuse panicle or flower cluster. One hundred and sixty species of panic grasses grow in the United States; approximately one-third of the total in the world. The center of abundance of our species is in the Southeast, though some panic grasses are encountered in all parts of the country.  The plants inhabit fields and upland waste places. The perennial panic grasses is a large group, many of which, have an unusual life cycle. Several of these grasses have a vernal and an autumnal phase. They have basal rosettes of leaves that stay green through the winter.  In the early part of the season, they send up a conspicuous terminal flowering shoot.  Later in the season the plant starts branching profusely and produces small inflorescences (flower cluster) tucked in the leaf axils.  These flowers never open but instead pollinate themselves. Round-Fruited Panic Grass is found in sandy, usually dry soil in light shade of open woods and edges. Panic grasses are one of the country’s most important source of food for ground-feeding songbirds and gamebirds.

OtherCommonName:

ScientificName:

Panicum sphaerocarpon

Community:

Thicket

PlantStatus:

Native

LifeSpan:

Perennial

PlantHeight:

6 to 20 inches

FruitingTime:

Autumnal—July to November

Distribution:

Massachusetts to Florida ~ Throughout the coastal plain in New Jersey

FloweringTime:

Vernal—June to late August

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

Stems spreading ~ Vernal blades pale green, smooth on back, hairs at nodes ~ Leaves panicles ~ Autumnal phase more widely spreading or prostate, few short branches, winter-rosettes of broad ovate leaves