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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Witchgrass  (Panicum capillare)

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Life stages of Witchgrass leaves and stems covered with long hairs young flower head mature plant collar region seedling mature flower head

Witchgrass is a clumping, summer annual grass with open, branching, flower heads. Other common names for this weed include tumbleweedgrass and witches-hair. It is common throughout California and grows at elevations to about 4900 feet (1500 m). Fall panicum, Panicum dichotomiflorum, a related species, is similar in appearance to witchgrass, but is less common in California. Witchgrass is a desirable member of natural communities (leaves and seeds are an important source of forage for many species of birds and mammals), but it can become weedy in agricultural and landscape sites.


Open disturbed sites, pastures, crop fields, orchards, vineyards, gardens, canal banks, ditches, and pond and reservoir edges.


Seedlings resemble those of crabgrass but have longer silky hairs with swollen bases.

Mature plant

Witchgrass forms “bushy” clumps, grows erect to spreading, and can reach 3 feet (0.9 m) tall. Its stems are round in cross-section, hollow between stem joints, and start branching at the base. Leaves are flat with pointy tips, about 2 to 10 inches (6–25 cm) long, 1/5 to 4/5 of an inch (0.5–2 cm) wide, covered with short to long spreading hairs, and rolled in the bud. In the upper portion of the plant, leaves are gradually more reduced in size. Sheaths are open and about 1-1/2 to 3 inches (4–8 cm) long, often purple- or red-tinged, and covered with short to long, stiff, spreading hairs that have tiny pustule-like bases.

Collar region

The collar area usually has long hairs and often appears whitish. Ligules are composed of a fringe of hairs. There are no auricles.


Flowers bloom from June through November. The flower head is erect, has an overall pyramid shape (sometimes egg shape), and is about 6 to 16 inches (15–40 cm) long, and at maturity its branches have an open form and appear diffuse.


Reproduces by seed.

Related or similar plants

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