Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Grass Family (Poaceae). Switch cane is a native, warm season, robust, rhizomatous and woody perennial grass. The height is between 4 and 10 feet. The leaf blade is lance shaped; the underside is usually hairy. The leaf sheath is commonly as long as internodes; ring of short, stiff hair across collar. The stem is round, hollow, and woody. The rhizomes in the air canals in the periphery

continue through nodes. The inflorescence is a raceme produced on top of leafless or nearly leafless stems.

Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

giant cane, mutton grass, Arundinaria tecta

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Type Information

Type fragment for Miegia pumila Nutt.
Catalog Number: US 3586955
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Alleged type specimen status verified from secondary sources
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): T. Nuttall
Locality: Red River, Oklahoma, United States, North America
  • Type fragment: Nuttall, T. 1835. Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc., n.s. 5: 149.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Type fragment for Arundinaria tecta var. colorata Rupr.
Catalog Number: US 2808998
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): ex herb. Trinius
Locality: "North America"
  • Type fragment: Ruprecht, F. J. 1839. Mem. Acad. Imp. Sci. Saint-Petersbourg, Ser. 6, Sci. Math., Seconde Pt. Sci. Nat. 3 (1): 112.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Ecology

Dispersal

Establishment

Switch cane grows all year if conditions are favorable. The leaves are produced from buds at nodes along the stems and it produces seedheads in early fall. It reproduces primarily from rhizomes. Air canals in the rhizomes may help the grass plant adapt to waterlogged soils or frequently flooded sites. It grows in pure stands on most sites and grows best in swampy woods and sandy flood plains.

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Management

Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Please contact your local NRCS Field Office.

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The leaves along the stem are within easy reach of most livestock. They sometimes "ride down" large plants to get the terminal leaves. Removing more than 50 percent of green leaves weakens the plant. This is particularly true in August when plant food reserves are lowest.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses

Switch cane is a good forage plant and is grazed by all livestock. It is grazed mostly in the summer months in the northern part of range and is highly valued as winter forage in the southern Coastal Plain and along the Gulf of Mexico. The robust rhizomes of switch cane bind the soil and protect it from erosion. In southern Mississippi, switch cane is called mutton grass, because of its value as sheep forage.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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