Alien species (of grass) thriving in New Hope

For those of us that have watched with horror the spread of bamboo and stinkbugs, the existence of  Japanese stiltgrass is nothing new. But the presence of whitetail deer and the recurring floods of recent years may have given the invasive species a boost in its seemingly inevitable spread throughout the area.

Stiltgrass, also known as “Nepalese browntop”, was first identified in Tennessee around 1919. It may have been accidentally introduced into the environment because of its use as a packing material for porcelain.

Whitetail love to chow on native plant species rather than microstegium vimineum, giving the invader a leg up in the competition for space and light, although the stiltgrass thrives in relatively low-light areas. Aside from displacing native plants,  Japanese stiltgrass may also may change soil chemistry and affect native butterfly species, who plant their eggs on the wide blades of the grass.

Unfortunately,  biological alternatives to chemical herbicides are not widely available yet. But the virtual international skirmish taking place beneath our very feet looks like it will continue for years to come.

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Charlie Sahner

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