Native plants provide beauty as well as food and shelter for wildlife. Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year.
switch grass (Panicum virgatum)
Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Switch grass grows throughout Illinois in prairies, woods, fields, disturbed soil and along some streams. The plant may reach three to six feet in height. This species grows in erect clumps. Flowers are arranged in a loosely branched cluster at the stem tip. The flowering head may be as much as 16 inches long. It is widest at the base and narrows toward the top to make a pyramidal shape. Switch grass blooms from July through October. The tiny flowers have red-purple anthers. The larvae of Leonard’s skipper (Hesperia leonardus), tawny-edged skipper (Polites themistocles), some other skipper butterflies and larvae and adults of several other insect species feed on the leaves. The seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. The plant turns a red-brown color in the fall adding interest to your garden in fall and winter. It also provides shelter to small animals, especially in winter.
Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.