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The Big Four: Switchgrass

We’re turning our conversation toward a member of the “big four” grasses of the true Tallgrass Prairie, Switchgrass — Latin name Panicum Virgatum. It is one of the most versatile members of the club. A native, warm-season perennial bunchgrass, it matures to about 3 to 6 feet tall. It has a distinctive bluish to bluish-green hue during the growing season, turning reddish-orange once dormant. 

Switchgrass grows on various soil types across the plains of Oklahoma and Texas. Use switchgrass as an ornamental grass or for grazing. It is an especially good grazer for livestock in its early stages of growth. Switchgrass offers good nesting cover for ground-nesting birds, fawning cover for deer, and song birds enjoy feasting on its seeds. Because it attracts grazers, it is important to manage switchgrass correctly to ensure it is not grazed out. This fact is why it is not commonly seen in many pastures across the Southern Great Plains. It’s also why it’s so important to understand your goals and select the variety that fits your project. 

Varieties

Blackwell switchgrass is a smaller variety that favors uplands. Blackwell has gained the reputation of being easier to manage than other varieties and a better “grazer.” Bamert Seed also offers the Alamo variety

While it can grow large and be a challenge to manage, Switchgrass often germinates easier and quicker than the other big four grasses. This makes it a popular choice for landscaping or reclamation projects. Its height provides lowland screening for homes, much like a hedgerow. 

Switchgrass also sets itself apart from the other big four grasses with its versatility. It has been used in methanol and ethanol production. 

If you’re looking for a good grazer that germinates quickly and offers ornamental to practical uses, switchgrass is a solid option. As always, you can count on the experts at Bamert Seed to guide you to the right species and varieties for your project.