A Gardening Public Service Announcement
Last year we noticed small patches of a short, feathery plant pop up on our property. Having no idea what it was, we decided to wait until spring to see if it flowered. We’ve had several pleasant surprises in the yard by taking a wait-and-see approach.
This year, easily 20% of our property is covered in this grass. It’s running amok throughout the yard, but especially in woodland areas. It’s not persnickety about growing conditions though, and proving that by boldly marching out into the gravel driveway. So far, we’ve found it in every planting bed except the herb garden.
Thanks to a Facebook post by the Virginia Native Plant Society, we now have an ID of our little scourge. It’s Japanese Stiltgrass, and it seems to have no redeeming qualities. This grass is incredibly invasive, chokes out native plants, and offers no benefit to wildlife. This jerk plant actually changes the chemistry of the soil, stunting the growth of competing plants!
The dried plant first came to the U.S. as packing material one hundred years ago. In Tennessee, the seed found it’s way into the soil, and spread from there. Japanese Stiltgrass can be found as far north as New York, south to Florida, west to the Mississippi River and even into Texas.
One plant can produce up to 1,000 seeds. Because the seed travels by water, animals, humans, and even vehicles, they spread like wildfire. Speaking of which, the grass dies back in the winter and blankets the forest floor with a dense mat of dry stems and leaves; fuel for forest fires.
Small patches are easy to pull by hand; use a weed-eater or mower for large sections of this mess. It’s best to mow or weed-eat in August or early September before the grass flowers and sets seeds. This is the perfect time of year to work on getting rid of it. Cut the plant all the way to the ground if possible. We haven’t gone the grass-selective herbicide route just yet, but we will if mowing doesn’t control this invasion.
For more reading on Japanese Stiltgrass, go here: http://blueridgeprism.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Japanese-Stiltgrass-SAR-5-27-17-VDOF-w-BOX-FINAL.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1fGYAQPSLRRIZxFBzKNfNGlBcBFMBzLXWeKYWgVKdvCw_T1HMbSDv72f4
We’ll have to remain vigilant for years until we are sure it’s all gone. If that doesn’t work, we’re getting a goat. They seem to be the only animals that will eat it.
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