Northern panic grass (Dichanthelium boreale)

Northern panic grass

Top facts

  • The genus Dichanthelium used to be considered part of Panicum, but genetic evidence suggests that they represent distinct generas.
  • The northern panic grass grows in moist wetlands.
  • Plants in the genus Dichanthelium, such as the northern panic grass, have two distinct blooming periods per year.
  • The northern panic grass is listed as endangered or threatened in every state it is found in within the United States, but the Canadian population is considered to be stable.
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Northern panic grass fact file

Northern panic grass description

GenusDichanthelium (1)

The northern panic grass (Dichanthelium boreale) is a rare species of grass, distinguishable from its close relatives such as forked panic grass (Dichanthelium dichotomum) by its delicate hollow stems that are known as ‘culms’. The flowers of this species are known as ‘spikelets’ and are relatively small and hairy (2). The primary flowering heads are egg-shaped, while the secondary flowers are ellipsoid, pointed and often reddish. The leaves of this grass are widely spread along the stems and the lowermost leaves are also hairy (2).

Also known as
northern rosette panic grass, northern witchgrass.
Panicum bicknellii, Panicum boreale.
Height: 24 - 60 cm (2)

Northern panic grass biology

The northern panic grass has two distinct flowering periods each year. Primary flowering occurs from May to early July and usually involves cross pollination (2), while the secondary flowering takes place from late July to September and is mostly self-pollinated (3). The northern panic grass is perennial, and during winter it persists as a rosette of short, wide leaves (2).


Northern panic grass range

The range of the northern panic grass spreads across much of the east coast of the United States, where it can be found from Minnesota in the west, to Alabama in the south (4). The range of this species extends north to south-western Canada (5).


Northern panic grass habitat

The northern panic grass occupies moist to wet woodlands (3) (6), wet meadows (2), stream edges and bogs (3), and is occasionally found in sandy areas (2).


Northern panic grass status

The northern panic grass has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Northern panic grass threats

The northern panic grass is known to hybridise with the hairy panic grass (Dichanthelium acuminatum) and pale panic grass (Dichanthelium xanthophysum) to form sterile plants, known as Panicum calliphyllum (2) (3). All wetland species are threatened by habitat loss as these habitats are vulnerable to pollution and land conversion for agriculture or other forms of human development (7) (8). Since 1600, around half of the original wetlands in the United States have been drained and converted, totalling an area of around 445,000 square kilometres (8).


Northern panic grass conservation

The northern panic grass is classified as endangered or threatened in all areas where it occurs in the United States, but is thought to be secure in Canada (4) (5). Many close relatives of this species, such as rough panic grass (Dichanthelium scabriusculum), are also classified as threatened (9). Suggestions for the conservation of this, and other, grass species include managing the habitat that these species are found in (9). In the United States, some wetlands are regulated by the federal government under the Clean Water Act of 1972, and farmers who modify existing wetlands may lose their benefits from the United States Department of Agriculture. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory produces in-depth reports and surveys of the extent and quality of wetlands in the United States (8) (10), and since 1989 a ‘no net loss policy’ has ensured that the overall amount of wetlands in the United States will remain near its current level in the future (10).


Find out more

Find out more about northern panic grass:

Read more about the status of wetlands in North America:

Find out more about North American plant conservation:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



The transfer of pollen between flowers on different plants.
Cross-breeding between two different species or subspecies.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
The transfer of pollen from the stamen (male part) of a flower, to the stigma (female part) of the same flower, or a different flower on the same plant.


  1. Catalogue of Life (April, 2014)
  2. Grasses of Iowa - Northern panicgrass (April, 2014)
  3. Utah State University Herbarium - Dichanthelium (April, 2014)
  4. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service - Dichanthelium boreale (April, 2014)
  5. Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Plants of Canada Database - Dichanthelium boreale (April, 2014)
  6. Plants of New Jersey - Dichanthelium boreale (April, 2014)
  7. United States Forest Service - Wet Meadows (April, 2014)
  8. United States Environmental Protection Agency - Wetlands - Status and Trends (April, 2014)
  9. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife - Rough panic-grass (April, 2014)
  10. United States Fish & Wildlife Service, National Wetlands Inventory - Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009 (April, 2014)

Image credit

Northern panic grass  
Northern panic grass

© Marilee Lovit

Marilee Lovit


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