Witch Grass


Witch Grass (Panicum capillare)


From the Poaceae family and the Genus Panicum. Other names include Panic Grass, Dog Grass, and Tickle Grass. It is also called Quack Grass and Couch Grass, but shouldn't be confused with Agropyron repens.


Panicum capillare is considered an ornamental grass but before purchasing know this can become and invasive weed. Native to North America, it is now spreading to areas around the world including Europe, South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.


When it sprouts as a monocot it spreads out at the base producing hairy stems. Grass begins to grow upright 10 - 30 inches tall and densely grows out about 2 feet in a decumbent fashion, or lying on the ground and tips turn up. Leaves are also hairy and grow about 4 to 10 inches long. There is a white mid-vein throughout it's length.


Witch grass is primarily green but it can carry blue to purple hints of color. It has tasseled flowerheads with seeds make up about half the plants height. These are loose, open panicle clusters that resemble a broom. Within are small cream colored flowers that are egg shaped.

Photo: F.D. Richards


Found growing in cultivated fields, the grass also grows in meadows, wastelands and gardens. It grows in part and full sun and prefers sandy soils that don't require a lot of water. The pH range of soil it prefers to grow in is 5.5 to 7.5 helping the weed to adapt well to clay and most other types of soil.




This annual weed grass spreads by seed and one plant can produce up to 60,000 seeds. Seeds mature in fall and germinates in the spring and summer. Flowers bloom from June through November, depending on region.


Removing and controlling can be done in various ways. Having a fibrous, shallow root system, weed can be pulled easily. If broken off at stem, can root at nodes.


Other methods of removal include:

  • Pre-emergents - effective with killing seeds.
  • Burning weeds can be effectively done with a propane torch.
  • When cutting grass, weed adapts to whatever mowing height blades are set at.




FYI:

  • Fall panicum (Panicum dichotomiflorum) - Also an annual weed that grows 20 - 50 inches. It can be smooth or have hair with a slightly different flower head than it's cousin Panicum capillare. Stems can have purple tinge. Leaf blade has prominent white vein down the middle. Grows in low areas.


  • Panicum genus are known for the edible seeds, including this weed, Panicum capillare, used as feed for sheep, horses and many species of birds. Panicum miliaceum, also known as Broomcorn Millet and Proso Millet, is mainly grown for birdseed but is also sold as a healthy food source due to its lack of gluten.




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