My woods are being taken over by Japanese Stilt Grass

mollyjenning(z6CT)September 10, 2005

Very quickly....within the last three years...the whole character of the woods has changed. First, the deer ate most all of the plants---the small spring flowers, the maple leaf viburnum which as recently as five years ago blanked the forest floor, and the part of the mountain laurel that they can reach...which is most of it.

Basically, the understory is gone.

Once these plants were gone, the Japanese Stilt grass moved in (also, garlic mustard) and this grass is displacing even the lovely sensitive ferns which once lined the stream going through the woods...Actually, I can't even see the stream now due to the stilt grass.

Last week, I invited an official with the inland wetlands agency in our town to come and look at the woods. He has obviously seen this before, and seemed as distressed as I am. He suggested spraying the stilt grass with something called rodio (sp?) and then sewing seeds from a wildflower mix.

Do any of you, on the basis of your experiences with your woods, have any additional suggestions?

I live in CT, 6-B. The area of the woods that is of concern has become a very open part of the woods (deer have also killed trees by rubbing against them), is designated wetlands, and I know could be lovely again.

Thank you so much for any suggestions you might have!

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esh_ga

Japanese stilt grass is an annual weed. It is best to kill it before it sets seed. Some people have good luck with string trimmers (weed wacker), but if you do it early in the year, you may have to hit it again later. The benefit to this is that it is a nonchemical solution.

The best thing you can do is to prevent it from reproducing.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2005 at 8:30PM
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JAYK(8b)

This document provides a great deal of background about this invasive plant and its management.

Here is a link that might be useful: STEWARDSHIP ABSTRACT

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 3:23AM
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Treedoc66(6b)

Pick your battles well. Try to suppress it in one area (the area you want it removed from most), then see what happens from there. Move through your property trying this approach. As stated by esh, it is an annual, so try to reduce the population by removing seed heads prior to distribution.
As for garlic mustard, I have it, but have really reduced it through herbicide treatments. I absolutely refuse to let this plant win. I will likely die with a backpack sprayer in hand..........

Rx

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 4:07PM
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mollyjenning(z6CT)

Hi esh, we have tried for the last two years not to let it go to seed (using the weed wacker), however it is still as thick if not more thick than ever.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 5:35PM
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mollyjenning(z6CT)

Thank you JAYK for the very imformative article. Interesting that this horrible plant actually makes changes to the soil , i.e. "thinner organic horizons." Also, since this monster raises the ph of the soil, it does in face make the soil less hospitable for woodland natives which often require a low ph.

I wonder why we don't read more about this kind of thing happening to our forests (in the mainstream press)??? What is happening to all the little critters whose sources of food and shelter have been replaced by this stilt grass?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 5:56PM
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mollyjenning(z6CT)

That is good advice. Until recently, I did not even know that I could plant anything in that area....I was under the impression tht wetlands were to be totally left alone.

I know people who have been fined for what they saw as wetlands restoration, but which the wetland officials saw as interfering with wetlands.

It is all very confusing to me, and I will proceed very, very slowly. Thanks for the advice

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 6:01PM
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esh_ga

Keep in mind that once seeds are distributed, they remain viable for some time. Some people refer to it as a "seed bank". You may be dealing with seeds from 3-4 years ago, despite your best efforts to cut down crops these last two years. Also, seeds from birds, wind and even via water continue to move in.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 7:49PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Hi folks, I've only recently found out about Jap stilt grass, but it really sounds like a nightmare for those who have it. I was wondering if anyone had tried using some kind of pre-emergent control like 'Preen'. I saw them mentioned in the article as providing good control, but only as a one or two sentence comment.

I would think this would be a good choice since it shouldn't damage the perennial wildflowers -other than stopping their seed germination for a few years until the seedbank of stilt grass decreases. Am I missing something? I'm sure it's not the cheapest method, and like I said I'm just learning about the problem recently, but to me it seems like a good way to keep most of the natives you have while at the same time controlling some of the S-grass invasion.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 5:56AM
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aisgecko(7b Raleigh)

My entire yard has been invaded by this nasty stuff. It's true that the seeds remain viable for a long time (up to ten yrs according to some sites) so you have to be really vigilant if you want to eradicate it. Forever, it seems, as seeds can blow in from adjacent properties. It's not a problem in lawns, as they are mown constantly and it can't produce seeds. But you see it taking over all the woods around here. That and the japanese honeysuckle. I commend all of you who are working to keep your woodlands natural (and native) and fighting the evil invasives. -Aislinn

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 9:48AM
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mollyjenning(z6CT)

Esh, You make such good points! After reading your post, I wondered over to a conservation area which is in back of our woods---filled with the horrible weed!!! So even though we do not let the part in our yard go to seed, we still will get seeds.

The group who owns the conservation lands has a "do not touch" policy, so I would not legally be able to pull up or weed wack the stilt grass there. Their phiosophy is that nature ultimately does the right thing.

What do you think about this kind of policy? In my opinion, nature always does the right thing when we stay out of its way...However my town kills the natural preditors of the deer...So, in intervening to protect the deer, we are putting at risk all of the little creatures who depend on the native plants which the deer eat.

We still have tons of frogs, but we are seeing fewer of the birds who depended on the native plants. For example, if you look at the bloom time of the Cardinal Flowers and the migration of the hummingbirds, you will be in awe of how it all fits together. However, since the deer have been eating the Cardinal Flowers, what are the hummers to do? I am upset at the moment because I put in some replacement Cardinal Flowers for the hummers the deer ate---and last night the deer ate the replacements.

Do you think that in favoring one species over all others (deer), we may be throwing our whole enviornment out of wack?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 9:12PM
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JAYK(8b)

No informed or responsible wildland manager believes that "nature ultimately does the right thing" when it comes to invasive species. "Nature" in this instance has been compromised by introduction of species that have no natural check. While there may be various opinions regarding the ways to deal with the problem, there is no disagreement among biologists and ecologists worldwide that the problem exists, and the "hands off" approach is irresponsible. I would contact those responsible for the land in question, and make sure that they are actually following the intentions of their parent organization. For a good background on these issues, the link is to the Nature Conservancy, a well known responsible group that works tirelessly to improve the ecological health of the lands they care for.

Here is a link that might be useful: TNC Invasive Species Initiative

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 10:25PM
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myrmecodia(7 NC)

It really sounds as though you'll need to deal with the deer population, or any attempt at correcting the problem will be doomed. Are you sufficiently far out in the country to invite someone to cull them? If not, perhaps you'll need to look into fencing.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2005 at 2:16PM
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turbo_tpl(z7a Richland WA)

A fine example of the "nature knows best" foolishness with respect to invasives is this post on another forum, where the postee asserts that stiltgrass infestations will somehow magically disappear in ten years:

http://cpanel.wispme.com/pipermail/mpwg_lists.plantconservation.org/2004-July/000372.html

    Bookmark   September 30, 2005 at 10:47AM
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brenda_near_eno(Z7a)

Even if you could eliminate the stilt grass, and the 4 years of viable seeds, the deer will again eat the natives. If it is not your land, you have little recourse. I don't fence, but I do use chemical herbicide on stilt grass. I started with small areas, letting natives come back and supplementing with planted natives. In 2 years, I have beween 1 and 2 acres under control - but the grass seed blows in, so it's constant vigilance on tiny grass starts. Unfortunately the deer will gladly eat the calycanthus and deciduous holly unless I coat leaves with TreeGuard, and by January, when they are starving they will eat Christmas fern and bitter sprayed leaves as well. I wish I could use no chemicals, and I try to be very sparing, but I believe that it is impossible organically and very labor-intensive nonorganically.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 6:50AM
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