Miscanthus Andersson

Miscanthus is a rather small genus with probably 20-25 species, almost exclusively confined to southeastern Asia (few extending into Africa).

The two taxa treated here (the only two in cultivation in Europe according to Walters & al. 1984, a view that is probably outdated now) are rather similar in general appearance and are obviously much confused in Belgium. However, they are easily distinguished on spikelet characters. Numerous cultivars with variegated leaves, coloured inflorescences or dwarf and giant forms recently arose in cultivation. However, several additional species are in cultivation elsewhere. Barkworth (2003) mentions five species as garden escapes for North America. Moreover, an additional taxon of Miscanthus, an allotriploid hybrid between M. sacchariflorus and M. sinensis (M. xgiganteus Greef et Deuter ex Hodkinson et Renvoize; according to Ibaragi & al. 2017 the correct name for this taxon is M. xlongiberbis (Hack.) Nakai f. ogiformis (Honda) Ibaragi) is increasingly cultivated as a source of biomass (Greef & Deuter 1993, Hodkinson & Renvoize 2001, Heaton & al. 2010) and might also occur as an escape (see for instance Brennenstuhl 2008). Since few years it is cultivated as a crop plant in Belgium as well (but not yet recorded as an escape; Bizot 2009). It seldom flowers and is not attractive as an ornamental. It is much reminiscent of Miscanthus sacchariflorus in general habit and spikelet characters but still has stouter rhizomes and wider leaves (often exceeding 30 mm) (see also Jäger & al. 2008). If inflorescences are produced lemma awns are short (4-5 mm) and geniculate (vs. absent or less than 5 mm and straight in M. sacchariflorus; Ibaragi & al. 2017). It might occur as a throw-out on rough ground in a near future. Another putative hybrid of these two species, M. xpurpurascens Andersson, is a diploid and probably also cultivated (it is often assigned to M. sinensis; e.g. Renvoize 2003). Its hybrid nature was proven by Jiang & al. (2013). According to Ibaragi & al. (2017), on the contrary, it is best assigned to M. sinensis var. sinensis, as f. purpurascens (Andersson) Nakai. It is distinguished by its purplish inflorescence.

Species of Miscanthus probably never produce viable seed in Belgium. At least, there is no evidence of self-sowing. All current populations originated from discarded rhizomes (garden waste).

  • Spikelets unawned. Callus hairs 2-4 times as long as the spikelets. Plant with long creeping rhizomes === 1. Miscanthus sacchariflorus
  • Spikelets awned, awn 6-12 mm long. Callus hairs less than twice as long as the spikelets. Plant more tufted, usually with shorter rhizomes === 2. M. sinensis



Barkworth M.E. (2003) Miscanthus. In: Barkworth M.E. & al. (eds.), Flora of North America north of Mexico, vol. 25: 616-619. Oxford University Press, New York-Oxford.

Bizot A. (2009) Miscanthus xgiganteus J.M.Greef & Deuter ex Hodk. & Renvoize, une nouvelle graminée récemment cultivée dans les Ardennes. Bull. Soc. Hist. Nat. Ard. 99: 59-64.

Brennenstuhl G. (2008) Zur Einbürgerung von Vinca- und Miscanthus-Taxa – Beobachtungen im Gebiet um Salzwedel. Mitt. Florist. Kart. Sachsen-Anhalt 13: 77-84.

Greef J.M. & Deuter M. (1993) Syntaxonomy of Miscanthus x giganteus Greef et Deu. Angew. Bot. 67: 87-90.

Heaton E.A., Dohleman F.G., Miguel A.F., Juvik J.A., Lozovaya V., Widholm J., Zabotina O.A., McIsaac J.F., David M.B., Voigt T.B., Boersma N.N. & Long S.P. (2010) Miscanthus: a promising biomass crop. Advances in Botanical Research 56: 75-137.

Hodkinson T.R. & Renvoize S. (2001) Nomenclature of Miscanthus x giganteus (Poaceae). Kew Bull. 56: 759-760.

Hodkinson T.R., Chase M.W., Lledó D.M., Salamin N. & Renvoize S.A. (2002) Phylogenetics of Miscanthus , Saccharum and related genera (Saccharinae, Andropogoneae, Poaceae) based on DNA sequences from ITS nuclear ribosomal DNA and plastid trnL intron and trnL-F intergenic spacers. Journ. Plant Res. 115(5): 381-392.

Ibaragi Y., Lim S.-H., Yook M.-J., Heo K.-I., Chen W., Li L., Park J.-S. & Kim D.-S. (2017) A Taxonomic Note on the Genus Miscanthus (Poaceae) in Korea. J. Jap. Bot. 92(6): 349-368. [available online at: http://www.jjbotany.com/pdf/JJB92-6_349-368_abstract.pdf] 

Jäger E.J., Ebel F., Hanelt P. & Müller G.K. (eds.) (2008) Exkursionsflora von Deutschland. Band 5. Krautige Zier- und Nutzpflanzen. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Berlin: 880 p.

Jiang J., Zhu M., Ai X., Xiao L., Deng G. & Yi Z. (2013) Molecular evidence for a natural diploid hybrid between Miscanthus sinensis (Poaceae) and M. sacchariflorus. Pl. Syst. Evol. 299(7): 1367-1377.

Nakamori H., Tomita M., Azuma H., Masuzawa T. & Tokuoka T. (2017) Molecular Phylogenetic Analysis of Japanese Miscanthus (Poaceae). Acta Phytotax. Geobot. 68(2): 83-92. [available online at: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/apg/68/2/68_201703/_pdf] 

Renvoize S. (2003) The genus Miscanthus. The Plantsman N.S. 2(4): 207-211.

Shouliang C. & Renvoize S.A. (2006) Miscanthus. In: Zhengyi W. & Raven, P.H. (eds.), Flora of China, vol. 22: 581-583. Science Press, Beijing & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.

Sun Q., Lin Q., Yi Z.-L., Yang Z.-R. & Zhou F.-S. (2010) A taxonomic revision of Miscanthus s.l. (Poaceae) from China. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 164: 178-220.

Walters S.M., Brady A., Brickell C.D., Cullen J., Green P.S., Lewis J., Matthews V.A., Webb D.A., Yeo P.F. & Alexander J.C.M. (eds.) (1984) The European Garden Flora, vol. 2 (part II). Cambridge University Press: 318 p.

Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith