Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Walsh, Roberta A. 1994. Panicum hemitomon. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name of maidencane is Panicum
hemitomon Schultes [6,17,39]. It is in the family Poaceae. There are
no currently accepted infrataxa.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Maidencane occurs on the coastal plain from New Jersey south through
Florida and west to Texas [14,39]. It is found in Tennessee .
Maidencane also occurs in South America [12,15].
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES41 Wet grasslands
AL DE FL GA LA MD MS NJ NC SC
TN TX VA
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K078 Southern cordgrass prairie
K080 Marl - everglades
K091 Cypress savanna
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
98 Pond pine
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Maidencane occurs as a vegetation type in the following classification:
The natural features of southern Florida especially the vegetation, and
the Everglades 
Common associates of maidencane include pickerelweed (Pontederia
cordata), lance pickerelweed (P. lanceolata), southern cattail (Typha
domingensis), common cattail (T. latifolia), narrowleaf cattail (T.
angustifolia), bladderwort (Utricularia spp.), white water-lily
(Nymphaea odorata), floating heart (Nymphoides aquaticum), pipewort
(Eriocaulon compressum), swamp-lily (Crinum americanum), bulltongue
(Sagittaria lancifolia), wapato arrowhead (S. latifolia), sawgrass
(Cladium jamaicense), bulrush (Scirpus spp.), beakrush (Rhynchospora
spp.), spikerush (Eleocharis spp.), and sedge (Carex spp.) [7,27,29,41].
Maidencane is a component of the sawgrass-arrowhead (Sagittaria
spp.)-maidencane community, the most extensive association of the
Everglades in Florida. It is also a component of the
sawgrass-maidencane type, which normally occupies drier sites . In
wet prairies maidencane can be a codominant on short beakrush
(Rhynchospora tracyi) flats [27,29]. Maidencane is a dominant in
wetlands scattered within dry prairies and flatwoods in Sarasota and
Manatee counties, Florida . Maidencane is a dominant in flag
(pickerelweed, fire flag [Thalia geniculata], arrowhead, and other
species with flaglike leaves) marshes of Florida . Maidencane is a
dominant in open marsh areas of the Okefenokee Swamp in Florida and
Maidencane was the dominant vegetation as an emergent aquatic and as a
terrestrial plant on open wet mesic sites on the shore of Gannet Pond in
northern Leon County, Florida. In the shrub zone located between open
maidencane and forest, associates of understory maidencane included
buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), willow (Salix spp.), and
lizards's tail (Saururus cernuus) .
Maidencane in southeastern Louisiana freshwater marshes can occur as a
codominant with Olney threesquare (Scirpus americanus)  and as a
dominant with common cattail and giant bulrush (Scirpus californicus)
[31,36]. Maidencane is dominant in the floating fresh marshes of
south-central Louisiana [31,34,37].
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Maidencane has high yield and forage quality [17,24]. It is preferred
cattle forage in south Florida , being prominent in cattle diets
during the summer . Many maidencane flatwood marshes in Florida are
used for cattle grazing .
Maidencane in south Florida is an important deer food .
Maidencane marshes in Florida are used extensively by the endangered
Florida panther .
Studies of muskrat use of maidencane habitat differ in their results.
Of the five important plant communities in Everglades National Park,
round-tailed muskrats seem to be best adapted to the maidencane marsh
habitat of wet prairies. This habitat was highly utilized in 1974 and
supported the greatest round-tailed muskrat densities. Round-tailed
muskrats showed positive selectivity for maidencane marsh, though this
was the least abundant plant association in wet prairies of Everglades
National Park. Maidencane was used both for food and for nest materials
. However, maidencane can become so abundant that the habitat
becomes less suitable for some wildlife. Common muskrats occupy
floating freshwater marshes in southeastern Louisiana. As maidencane
dominance increases, the carrying capacity for common muskrats and
waterfowl declines . Maidencane has been considered a serious pest
in waterfowl habitat. It is a very strong competitor with duck food
plants across its range .
Maidencane vegetation is used as habitat by mammals, amphibians, birds
and reptiles. In Leon County, Florida, maidencane vegetation harbors
eastern woodrats, northern leopard frogs, black swamp snakes, bullfrogs,
green anoles, and spring peepers. Resident birds included great egrets,
northern bobwhites, northern cardinals, American crows, common moorhens,
great blue herons, little blue herons, northern mockingbirds, common
grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and snowy egrets. American alligators
use the maidencane-covered shoreline .
Maidencane in peripheral areas of baldcypress (Taxodium distichum)
swamps and ponds in Alachua and Bradford counties, Florida, was used as
habitat by round-tailed muskrats, marsh rabbits, cotton rats (Sigmodon
spp.), eastern woodrats, Virginia opossums, and white-tailed deer .
Maidencane is an important component of open marshes in the Okefenokee
Swamp. These marshes and their included ponds and lakes are the only
habitats used by sandhill cranes, American bitterns, least bitterns,
common moorhens, and round-tailed muskrats. The marshes are the
preferred habitat of American alligators, little blue herons, glossy
ibises, and ospreys .
Maidencane wet prairies in south Florida harbor abundant invertebrates
and other small aquatic animals, and have the highest density of
small-fish populations of any south Florida freshwater vegetative type.
These help maintain the wading-bird populations of south Florida .
Male Florida largemouth bass in Orange Lake, Alachua County, Florida, a
lake without a firm inorganic substrate, used the firm detritus in
emergent maidencane as a nest substrate much more often than would be
expected from the availability of maidencane vegetation .
Maidencane is an important forage grass which becomes tougher and less
palatable as it matures .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Chemical analysis of maidencane showed it was especially high in crude
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Maidencane is important as a soil binder in some areas because of its
extensive rhizome system .
Maidencane can be used for controlling shoreline erosion of lakes,
ponds, and irrigation reservoirs. It is an aquatic to semiaquatic grass
that will spread from the shoreline both toward and away from the water.
The stems, sterile shoots, leaves, and rhizomes form a dense vegetative
mat holding the soil in place. Maidencane was measured as spreading 24
to 30 inches (60-76 cm) per growing season. Maidencane was compared
with five other grasses at the Soil Conservation Service's plant
materials center in Coffeeville, Mississippi; it was found to be far
superior to the others in withstanding erosion [3,16].
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Maidencane is sometimes considered a weed in moist cultivated fields
Maidencane is occasionally harvested for hay. On most sites it produces
4 to 5 tons of high-quality forage per acre. For maximum production and
feed quality, no more than 50 percent of the current year's growth by
weight should be grazed . Maidencane is a decreaser in response to
grazing . In southern Louisiana, fresh marsh was dominated by
maidencane until heavily grazed by cattle .
Maidencane disappears from Florida marshes in which the seasonal
drawdown has been eliminated. This occurs whether the water level is
raised, stabilized, or lowered [27,50]. Long periods of inundation
rapidly shift wet prairies to slough communities without maidencane;
much increased dry periods can result in invasion of sawgrass and lesser
maidencane presence .
Dominant stands of maidencane have appeared as a major component of the
Everglades National Park flora and may be increasing as a result of
Maidencane was not adversely affected by secondarily treated sewage
treatment plant wastewater that was used to irrigate two cypress domes
in north Florida .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Maidencane is a native, warm-season, rhizomatous, perennial grass .
Culms are stout, 1.6 to 6 feet (0.5-1.8 m) tall [20,28], and erect or
sprawling ; culms often produce roots at lower submersed nodes
[12,14]. Culms can be fertile or sterile . Leaf blades are 8 to 12
inches (20-30 cm) long and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) wide . The
inflorescence is a slender, compact panicle 2.4 to 12 inches (6-30 cm)
long [14,20] with ascending branches . The fruit is a caryopsis
. The extensive creeping rhizomes are elongated [15,28]; they often
produce numerous sterile shoots with overlapping sheaths . The
canelike air-filled roots  form a compact mass 15 to 18 inches
(38-46 cm) in thickness .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Maidencane propagates primarily by rhizomes [29,48], but also fruits
abundantly during wet years that follow periods of drought .
Maidencane can sprout from culm nodes. When these culms float free,
each becomes a vegetative propagule which can establish in a new site
Maidencane in freshwater marshes in Louisiana may become elevated on
peat soils of its own origin, so that its roots and rhizomes are above
the more stable lower soils. If the water level of the basin rises to
where the root anchorage of maidencane can no longer hold against the
buoyant stress of its air-filled roots, the entire vegetative crust will
break away and form a floating marsh .
During periods of rising water maidencane grows rapidly, maintaining
sparse stands in 3 feet (0.9 m) or more of water for 9 months to a year
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Maidencane occurs in freshwater marshes , swamps , ponds ,
on wet shores , along riverbanks [6,20], ditches , drainage
canals , and on wet disturbed sites .
Maidencane is strictly a freshwater species [22,34]. It does not occur
in marshlands that have even slightly brackish water [28,36]. It can
occur as an emergent in water or as a terrestrial plant in moist areas
[45,48]; it generally attains its greatest density on the drier sites
Maidencane grows best if the water level fluctuates from 2 inches above
soil surface to 4 inches below . However, it is found in areas that
have a wide range of hydroperiods, and it shows considerable tolerance
for both flooding and dry conditions. Maidencane occurs on wet soils of
beaches which are never flooded . It is widespread in the
Everglades, where water levels fluctuate widely [29,45,51]. It occurs
in the Big Cypress Swamp of southwestern Florida in areas which are
flooded to a depth of 3.9 inches (10 cm) 120 days during the summer wet
season . Maidencane is dominant in Florida wet marshes, where
hydroperiods are 50 to 150 days per year and in Florida flag marshes,
where the hydroperiod varies from 180 to 270 days per year and water
depth is between 1 and 3.3 feet (0.3-1.0 m) . In south Florida,
maidencane is usually found where the soil is inundated 200 to 250 days
annually . In the marshes of the upper St. Johns River in Florida,
maidencane grows where the hydroperiod exceeds 290 days .
Maidencane grows on a wide range of soils, from firm mineral clays to
floating organic soils . It occurs on a hard clay pond bottom
covered with a thin layer of muck in Leon County, Florida . It
grows on sandy loam or loamy sand above impenetrable limestone bedrock
in Liberty County, Florida . It is found on sandy soil with no
detectable organic material in Big Cypress Swamp . It occurs in
Florida wet prairies where organic matter accumulation ranges from zero
to a few inches; it occurs on sandy substrates where organic matter
accumulation is less than 3 feet (1 m) in Florida flag marshes. Florida
maidencane flatwood marshes on sandy substrates typically have a
sphagnum (Sphagnum spp.) moss mat . Maidencane occurs in
south-central Louisiana floating marshes, where its roots are embedded
in floating peat [34,37]. Maidencane is found on acid soils developed
from sands and clays in cypress heads of north-central peninsular
Florida ; in coastal Louisiana, it is found in freshwater marshes
where pH ranges from 4.3 to 6.3 .
Climate in the maritime communities of the southeastern United States is
characterized by mild winters with high humidity and long, hot, humid
summers. In the regions in which maidencane occurs, winter temperatures
are usually moderated by prevailing winds off large bodies of water.
Rainfall patterns vary over the range of maidencane. In southwestern
Florida the dry season occurs from October through May; the wet season
is from June through September . The rainfall along the Louisiana
coast is well distributed throughout the year, with the maximum in July
and the minimum in October .
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species
Maidencane is usually found on open sites, but is sometimes found in
sparser stands under partial canopy shade.
Maidencane in marshes of Sarasota and Manatee counties of Florida was
not found under canopy cover of red maple (Acer rubrum), buttonbush,
Coastal Plain willow (Salix caroliniana), popash (Fraximus caroliniana),
or laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia). It was a dominant in adjacent areas
without canopy cover .
Maidencane succeeds cattail or sawgrass in the eastern region of
freshwater marshes along the Gulf Coast .
When shallow marshes in Florida are completely replaced by woody
thickets, maidencane disappears. Relatively frequent fires coupled with
fluctuating water levels maintain the integrity of Florida marshes and
arrest succession .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Maidencane sprouts from rhizomes in late winter and grows until fall.
Aboveground stems die back in winter [27,38]; where frost occurs, they
die back immediately after first frost . Rafts of recumbent leaves
are produced when aboveground portions die .
Maidencane in freshwater marshes bordering Lac des Allemands in
Louisiana was dormant in January and February, having no live leaf
biomass. It began growing from rhizomes in March, reached its highest
live leaf biomass from July through November, and decreased rapidly in
Maidencane in wet meadows at Paynes Prairie in central Florida was
dormant from the last week in October to the end of January. It resumed
growth the first week of February, and continued growth to the third
week in May. Inflorescences developed and expanded from the last week
of May through the first week of June. Flowering occurred the second
week of June, and fruit dispersed from the middle of June to the middle
of July. Maidencane remained green until the last week of September,
when it began to dry as it approached dormancy .
Because of their relatively short hydroperiods, flatwoods marshes in
Florida experience marked seasonal variation in dominance. In
maidencane flag marshes, maidencane and floating heart are dominant in
spring, but beakrush and bald rush (Psilocarya nitens) become more
apparent as the dry season progresses .
Maidencane blooms in June and July in New Jersey  and the Carolinas
; it blooms in May and June in panhandle Florida .
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Maidencane is a rhizomatous species which sprouts after aerial portions
are burned .
Summer is the natural fire season in Florida marshes; lightning is most
frequent then, but soil moisture levels are high and plants are growing.
Organic soils fail to ignite when moisture content is above 65 percent,
and wet season fires are typically confined to the abovewater
vegetation. Fire periodicity in most deep water marshes is about 3 to 5
years. Shallow water marshes burn on 1- to 3-year cycles, provided
plant growth is sufficient to carry a fire .
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Secondary colonizer - on-site seed
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Maidencane grows in wet to moist areas where its rhizomes are generally
protected from damage by fire when aerial portions burn .
In the upper Everglades area, fires which occur during normal
hydroperiod cycles, when water levels do not recede more than 4 or 5
inches below the surface of the ground, have a positive effect on
maidencane. It recovers very rapidly and grows more vigorously than
prior to burning. During extreme drought periods, water levels may
recede 3 or 4 feet below the surface of the ground. Then fire destroys
not only the aerial vegetation but also the upper, dry, compacted peat
layers to a depth of 3 or 4 inches and up to a foot or more in localized
areas. Maidencane is killed when its rhizomes are burned ; whether
death occurs is determined by depth of rhizomes and depth of burning.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Maidencane grows quickly from rhizome buds following a growing-season
fire in which rhizomes are not injured . It can sprout within 3 or
4 days after burning . Significant growth of maidencane occurs
within 1 month after fire, and often within 6 months density is as great
as before fire. However, the fire's impact depends on how fast and how
deeply the organic soil burns and how slowly the water level rises after
the fire . In a greenhouse study using maidencane from South
Carolina freshwater wetlands, inundation reduced maidencane growth after
fire. Rhizomes from plants that had been recently burned and from those
that had not were grown in four water level treatments: (1) permanently
inundated soil; (2) inundation followed by moist soil; (3) saturated
soil; (4) moist soil. Burning reduced stem numbers and stem height of
maidencane in the first and second treatments and had no measurable
effects in the remaining two treatments .
During the growing season after fire, maidencane sprouts earlier and
more thickly on burned than on unburned sites. It also flowers earlier.
Fire stimulates seedstalk production and yields .
On Gannet Pond in northern Leon County, Florida, maidencane that had
been burned a month before while dormant produced green shoots the third
week in February 1971. In the first week of March, maidencane was 4
inches (10 cm) tall. By the end of April it was 24 inches (60 cm) tall.
Inflorescences were present by the first week in May. Maidencane in the
unburned control section did not produce green shoots until March 15,
and inflorescences did not appear on unburned shore line until May 11
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
The north shore of Gannet Pond, a man-made impoundment in northern Leon
County, Florida, was burned during the winter of 1969-70. An
experimental section was burned again on January 21, 1971, under
conditions which closely simulated a severe wildfire. A line of fire
was spread along the water's edge and moved as a headfire 60 feet (18 m)
from open water into timber. Fire also backed toward the open-water
edge in the emergent aquatic growth. After treatment, maidencane was
taller, more robust, and more dense in the burned area. The greatest
difference in yield between unburned and burned vegetation was found in
the drier portions of the grassy zone, where a 15-inch (37-cm) mat of
the previous year's maidencane growth suppressed new growth in the
unburned area .
In the upper St. Johns Basin in east-central Florida, maidencane marshes
have expanded at the expense of sawgrass marshes following deep-burning
fires. They now cover 37 percent of the headwater wetlands .
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Maidencane can be burned to improve wildlife habitat and range .
The burning of maidencane along shorelines usually leaves areas of
litter, stubble, "rough", and unburned vegetation which provide cover
for some species, while improving food sources for others .
Maidencane-cattail marsh in southeastern Louisiana can be burned in late
winter just before the start of the spring growing season to encourage
food plants for muskrats and waterfowl. If this marsh remains unburned
for more than 2 or 3 years, maidencane overwhelms more valuable food
In Leon County, Florida, recently burned maidencane sites were preferred
to unburned sites by many animal species for 4 months after fire.
Common moorhens, purple gallinules, and eastern kingbirds preferred
burned sites as territories and probably for nesting sites. Great
egrets, great blue herons, little blue herons, and snowy egrets were
more frequently found on burned than on unburned sites, possibly because
they were attracted by the shallow flats on the burned shore line.
Mourning doves and common snipe were most common on the fresh burns,
where the newly exposed ground made food more available. American
alligators used the burned shore almost exclusively .
Surface fires do not affect the vegetational structure of a marsh if
standing water protects the basal parts of perennial plants .
Controlled burning produces favorable results for maidencane except when
burning is conducted late in the growing season or under unusually dry
conditons that result in ground or peat fires which destroy rhizomes
. There should be at least an inch of standing water at the time of
a prescribed fire to prevent root burns, which occur in peaty marshes
burned during drought conditions. Root burns kill maidencane and allow
invasion by earlier successional species .
Maidencane disappears when fire exclusion allows woody vegetation to
invade wetlands . Fire was excluded from some southwestern Florida
maidencane habitats from 1939 to 1968. In that time forest and shrubby
vegetation invaded; in the areas of invasion maidencane disappeard .
In Florida, shallow maidencane marshes can be completely replaced by
woody thickets within 5 to 10 years. Relatively frequent fires help
maintain Florida marshes .
In Sarasota and Manatee counties, southwestern Florida, prescribed fire
in dry conditions early in the growing season is more effective in
reducing woody species cover than are dormant-season fires or later wet
growing-season fires .
Maidencane occurs in open marsh areas of the Okefenokee Swamp, but not
in the 80 percent of the swamp covered with forests of pondcypress
(Taxodium distichum var. nutans) or swamp tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica var.
biflora). The open marshes are the result of very severe fires which
have killed woody growth and burned away the upper part of the peat bed.
Maidencane then invades the marshes. In the absence of severe fires
accompanying extreme drought, these marshes gradually revert to swamp
forest through the formation and expansion of clumps of trees and shrubs
Maidencane in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in south Florida grew in sites
that had been logged (1954), burned (1962), or logged and burned (1954
and 1962). Maidencane importance value (the sum of relative dominance,
relative abundance, and relative frequency) was recorded between
November 1975 and September 1976; importance value was highest (35.5) at
the site that had been burned only. Importance value was 8.3 and 1.5 on
two logged sites. Maidencane was not present where the land had been
both burned and logged, probably because of the severity of soil
disturbance and exposure of the organic layer .
The lowering of the water table and the shortening of the hydroperiod in
drained areas of Florida have contributed to more severe wildfires which
have burned out surface layers of peat. Most of the resulting
depressions have changed to wet prairies; the lengthening of the
hydroperiod in these depressions has resulted in displacement of
sawgrass by associations including maidencane. Maidencane flats are
becoming more widespread partly because maidencane can tolerate both
recurrent fire and widely fluctuating water levels .
SPECIES: Panicum hemitomon
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