Invasive stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) is an annual grass native to Asia. It was first documented in the US in 1919 but can now be found in a variety of habitats across the country.
Japanese stilt grass seeds germinate readily allowing them to reproduce rapidly. When it is introduced to an area it has the ability to take over, crowding out ecologically important species. It can also have an impact on nutrient cycling and forest health.
Japanese stilt grass has thin, pale green, lance-shaped leaves, about 3 inches in length with a stripe of silver hairs down the midvein. Leaves have an alternate arrangement along a branched stalk which can grow three feet in height. Flowers are delicate and grow on spikes in late summer-fall.
Habitat: stilt grass can be found in a wide range of soil conditions but generally prefers moist, neutral or acidic soils that are high in nitrogen.
Small populations may be pulled by hand before the plant goes to seed in August. Mowing or cutting can also be effective but should be completed before seeds are produced. Herbicides can also be effective but should be grass selective as not to harm native vegetation. All of these methods may need to be repeated annually to deplete the seed bank, which can be viable for three or more years.
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Title photo: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org. Identification image: James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society.