Switchgrass (SG) is a perennial, bunch like, native warm season grass (NWSG) that is native to the prairie grass states of the Midwest. Switchgrass varies from about 3-12 feet tall depending on the variety. There are two basic types of SG, upland and lowland. Upland varieties are usually 3-6 feet tall and adapted to well drained soils. Lowland varieties tend to grow taller and more rapidly than upland types. They will reach maturity levels from 8 to 12 feet tall and are found on heavy, damp soils in bottomland. Growth of an established stand of SG will generally sprout regrowth when soil temperatures reach approximately 50 degrees in the spring. Germination of a newly seeded SG stand starts as the soil temperatures reach about 60 degrees. Early season growth is slow with the most substantial growth, 70%, from June through August. Switchgrass is the earliest maturing warm-season grass and will start to produce seed earlier in the season than other NWSG.
NWSG was widespread in open prairie areas until settlers populated an area and remained in one place. The livestock was free roaming and would graze the new growth in the spring before the plants were mature enough to withstand browsing pressure. This mismanagement weakened the stands and eventually led to their failure. They were replaced by cool-season grasses such as bluegrass, tall fescue, and orchardgrass. These cool-season grasses began growing much earlier in the spring so they could tolerate the early season grazing by livestock. As a result, the native warm-season grasses such as SG were destroyed.