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What is Miscanthus?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Miscanthus is a genus that includes around 15 different species of tall perennial grasses native to the tropical and subtropical areas around the world such as southeast Asia and Africa. These perennial grasses look like canes with palm leaves, and they can grow as high as 4 to 7 feet (1 to 2 m) tall. The plants belonging to this genus bloom flowers in many colors between the months of August to October.

Two species of the genus are commonly used: M. giganteus and M. sinensis. While both are widely cultivated, M. sinensis is known more as a premiere ornamental grass and a favorite among gardeners. Miscanthus sinensis grows in hundreds of blade sizes, shapes, and color patterns. While the cultivars of this species differ in a number of ways, they all have a common characteristic of growing their leaves up in a way that will cascade down like a fountain. The foliage of M. sinensis can turn into various shades of bronze or gold in autumn and shiny yellow during summer.

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On the other hand, M. giganteus is identified as a promising energy and biofuel crop, also being referred to as e-grass. Discovered as a coal substitute in September 2005, the dry and leafless bamboo-like stems of M. giganteus are used as a type of solid fuel. The low water and ash contents of perennials belonging to this species of Miscanthus allow them to be thoroughly dried and burned like coal to produce electricity. As of 2010, this method of producing energy was still being used and explored, as it can outperform corn and wood timber.

Miscanthus can be easily grown by planting pieces of its roots, which are called rhizomes. These rhizomes can be collected from existing Miscanthus plants. The roots are broken up, collected, and planted using everyday planting equipment. These types of plants require minimal irrigation and start blooming within a month or two. It may be necessary to cut them back to ground before they begin to seed, as the genus is known for spreading quickly.

In Germany, Miscanthus plants are cultivated, harvested annually, and sold for regular yearly income. As of 2010, there is plenty of demand for the plants as ornamental garden features, due to their rapid growth, low maintenance, and appearance. The larger grasses are used as focal point pieces or as backdrops for shrubs and smaller plants. These gold and silvery garden pieces can be used to complement more colorful plants and as a border that will group other plants.

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