Identifying Grass Seedlings

Shattercane (Sorghum bicolor)

Summer annual grasses


Shattercane hybridizes with cultivated sorghum and johnsongrass, and thus varies in its physical features. The sheaths and stems are round, and the ligule is membranous. Upper and lower leaf surfaces may have hairs, but this is an extremely variable trait. Shattercane is a tall, erect-growing plant that is competitive with agronomic crops, particularly corn and grain sorghum.

Mature shattercaneMature shattercane.

Collar region SeedheadCollar region: round stem, membranous ligule.
Right, shattercane seeds (left) and johnsongrass seeds (right).


Shattercane is a serious agronomic weed but is rarely problematic in landscapes.


In Missouri, shattercane occurs mainly in the southwestern counties and north of the Missouri River. It can be found in much of the United States except the northeastern and Pacific northwestern states.

Similar species

Johnsongrass is closely related but has a different life cycle. Johnsongrass is perennial and has stout underground rhizomes, whereas shattercane is an annual and does not produce rhizomes. The seed of shattercane is much larger and rounder than johnsongrass. If seedlings are carefully removed from the soil, the seed may still be attached for identification.