Sunday, September 9, 2012

This Grass has got to GO!

No, I'm not talking about my lawn.

That pile of grass does not belong there

A soft, green grass has been infiltrating the suburbs for some time. This is not the grass in the lawn (although you may have some of it in there). This grass comes up in partially shaded areas, often on the edge of woodlands. This is an annual grass and you might think it would not gain much ground being an annual. Year after year of infestation creates more and more seed until the previously unnoticed grass suddenly appears to invade the forest!

This grass is Microstegium vimineum, a non-native grass that goes by common names such as Nepalese browntop, Japanese stiltgrass, microstegium, and $#@&!%. Here are some pictures of it close up and showing the habit of it. The foliage tends to be almost blue-green in color.

Close up of the plant

A piece by itself displays a sprawling look

The plant was accidentally introduced into the United States in Tennessee around 1919 and is assumed to have entered from packing material used to ship porcelain from countries like China. People would toss the packing material outside. Seeds contained in the mass of plants would eventually sprout. As you can see below, the grass can really spread, especially on a downward slope like on this path in Amicalola Falls State Park.

 The plant itself is an annual and is very easy to pull. Regular efforts to remove it can make a difference - each year the population will diminish until the seed supply is exhausted. Note: seeds can sprout for several years after plants are removed because seeds can remain viable in the soil for several years.

Dense populations of it prevent seedlings of native plants from getting enough light to grow. Left alone, it grows up to 18 inches in height and forms a thick stand.

A single plant - note the weak roots
This is A GREAT TIME TO ERADICATE IT. In north Georgia it goes to seed in mid to late September. The flowers and the seeds that follow emerge out of the top of the grass, a structure about 2 inches in length. Before this happens you can kill the grass by pulling it or you can damage it by weed whacking it with a string trimmer. Since it is an annual grass, once it is pulled, it's dead - it will not regrow from the roots.

A trimmer should damage it so that it won't recover enough to grow and set seed by frost ... but you should monitor the area if you use this method.

So look around and see if you have it. If you do, pull it now before you get any more. You'll be glad you got the jump on it.


  1. I have been trying to eradicate it for several years in my garden. Glad to kniw someday I may succeed. Who knows how it got here..

  2. We've got one little patch--which was pulled up last year. But as you say, it was a bigger patch last year. I'll get right on it!