Replacing Invasives With Natives: Japanese Stiltgrass by Carol Schroding

Replacing Invasives With Natives:  Japanese Stiltgrass

by Carol Schroding

Drive along almost any road in our township, and you will see one of the most insidiously invasive plants that we deal with in Haycock.  Japanese Stiltgrass, (Microstegium vinineum) native toJapan,China,Korea,IndiaandMalaysia, is an annual grass which grows 2 to 3.5 ft.  The leaves are lance-shaped, 1 to 3 in. long and have a shiny midrib. The plant resembles a delicate bamboo.  It flowers in late summer and produces dry fruits called achenes soon after bloom. 

Japanese stiltgrass is adapted to almost all conditions, sun or shade, dry or moist soil.  It spreads to form large patches, out-competing native plants.  And guess what!?  The deer do not eat it!   It was introduced in to Tenessee somewhere around 1919, having been used as a packing material for imported porcelain, and escaped in to the wild.  A single plant can produce 100-1,000 seeds that remain viable in the soil for at least 5 years, ensuring its persistence.  As if the seeds were not enough, it is also capable of a vegetative spread by rooting at joints along the stem.  Each joint can produce a new plant.  Stiltgrass is currently established in 16 eastern states fromNew YorktoFlorida.

If you are battling with this on a daily basis as I am, here are some of the suggested controls.  Pulling out by hand is the first.  Since it is an annual, hand-pulling when the soil is moist to pull the roots with it is the best control.  For larger areas, cut back with a mower or weed whip to prevent flowering and seed production.  This is best done later in the season, but before flowering and seed form.  There is evidence that cutting early in the summer will cause the plant to flower and seed earlier than normal.  Finally, although I do not promote their use, there are chemical controls (recommendation of the DCNR) for large infestations.  One of the best for this application is Roundup Pro® (glyphosate), a systemic non-specific herbicide.  Use caution as it will kill or damage almost any plant it comes in contact with.

For more information on invasive plants in PA and their management and control visit

Now that you’ve pulled all your stiltgrass out, the fun and equally important part comes!  Replacing this nuisance invasive with beautiful native plants appropriate for the site is not only pleasing, rewarding and supporting the wildlife on your property, but will help prevent the return of the invasive plants.  Whatever you do, don’t leave the area open or you are inviting the stiltgrass or some other invasive right back in to your property.  One trick that I have learned, especially if I do not plan to plant an area right away, is to place heavy cardboard over the area, and cover with mushroom soil. 

As stiltgrass is adapted to almost any site, your native replacements will need to be appropriately suited to that particular site.   In my next writing, I will discuss other invasive plants in Haycock, and some wonderful native replacements!  In the mean time, use what I will call the three R’s of replacing invasives with natives…Recognize, Remediate or Remove, Replace!


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