Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's Lurking in the Backyard

This plant is not as innocent as it looks.
Doesn't that look like a harmless little sedge? Just when you think you know your environment, you find an unsavory surprise. This invasive plant the park ranger shows you, which covers an entire forest floor, looks familiar. Wait-- is it?

Investigating on home turf, we find that yes, it is the invader, the little sneak. Oh, yeah. Oh, no!

Patches of Japanese Stilt Grass are in our yard and in others. We found it on the roadside and in the buffer of a creek. It is threatening to take over our nearby forest.

Now I'm familiar with the stealth of Japanese Stilt Grass, I am compelled to warn my neighbors. I mean, this little plant appears so tame, just a little bunch that barely spreads at all, staying in place without moving much for several years.

Unlike the monster-like kudzu announcing its presence by climbing over everything, the Japanese Stilt Grass has a "don't mind little ol' me" approach to world domination. While it seems quite harmless, it is actually establishing a seed bed in its first few years, from which will spring a million plants that overtake all other low-growing plants in an area.

It is invasive, very much so. The grass overtakes all the other plants, and removes the biodiversity. Animals won't eat it; not even goats would try it when offered. No consumers, and stealth plant domination? That adds up to bad news.

The good news: this plant has little short roots, making it very easy to pull up. So easy, in fact, your nearby five-year-old kid could probably make quite a dent in it. If the grass is not yet established over several acres, it is fairly easy to pull it, and trash it.

The problem is evident when you see its success: way, way, too much to search out and pull by hand.

This ground, and much more beyond, is covered almost entirely with Japanese Stilt Grass.

If we can pull the small patches, we can interrupt its dedicated progression through our area. Another help is that it seeds in mid-August, so weed-whacking it to the ground during the beginning of that month can help if a patch has already taken over a large space.

Don't leave the pulled plants on the ground, or in compost, just to be sure you are not spreading it. You can get more information and help identifying it at the National Invasive Information Species Center. Luckily, it is easy to recognize, once you know what it is. Here is another great field guide that can help you distinguish it from native plants. It has a link to report infestations.

We are working on grass-eradication parties, sending hordes of small people to attack it (low to the ground is an advantage), and rewarding them with prizes and treats such as certain small people adore.

Join our kid army, in your neighborhood and green spaces! Ninja plant, we are coming after you!


Roberta Dees said...

Thank you so much! I never would have known about it.

Heather Head said...

One more thing to add to the list! :) Thanks for sharing--I had no idea.

CJ Price said...

would it get rid of poison ivy?

S. Conely said...

I wouldn't count on it displacing poison ivy. However, goats will eat poison ivy, but won't eat Japanese Stilt Grass.

CJ Price said...

So should I get some goats into my yard to eat the poison ivy?