Invasive Japanese stiltgrass found in Michigan

The primary infestation of Japanese stiltgrass in Scio Township, Washtenaw County, consisted of approximately 1,500 square feet of dense growth in a partially shaded area. (Courtesy/ David J. Moorhead)

The primary infestation of Japanese stiltgrass in Scio Township, Washtenaw County, consisted of approximately 1,500 square feet of dense growth in a partially shaded area. (Courtesy/ David J. Moorhead)

MANISTEE COUNTY — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning the public to be on the look out for a new invasive species that was recently found in Ann Arbor.

Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) is an invasive plant originating in Asia, which was located recently on private property in Scio Township. It was confirmed by the University of Michigan Herbarium.

This is the first time it has ever been found in Michigan.

“This annual grass is considered highly invasive, taking hold in areas of disturbed soil along banks, roadways and woods,” said Greg Norwood, invasive species coordinator for the DNR’s Wildlife Division, in a press release. “Seeds can be transported by water or on animals, and seeds can remain viable in the soil for three to five years.

“Because deer don’t feed on Japanese stiltgrass, it often takes over in areas where deer browse on native plants and leave open patches of soil.”

Although the species has not been identified yet in the Northwestern region, the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN) is still monitoring the risk at all costs.

Emily Cook, ISN outreach specialist, said there is a high risk of stiltgrass spreading to Northern parts of Michigan.

“Like many invasive species, it is tolerant of multiple conditions which would allow it to grow in our region,” Cook said. “While typically found in moist soil conditions, it also has the ability to grow in areas that are more dry with no real preference in regard to soil acidity.”

Cook said the plant has also proven to thrive in both sunny and shaded areas.

“These varied preferences certainly give the stiltgrass an ecological advantage as an invasive species,” she said.

The Japanese stiltgrass is not yet on the ISN’s “Early Detection” list, which identifies invasive plants that could spread in the area; however, it may be added in the future if proven a higher risk.

“If a new plant is identified, we determine risk by looking at characteristics of that particular plant and its habits in other areas,” Cook said. “We communicate with other cooperative weed management areas that have already dealt with an outbreak. If it is determined to be a high risk, we want to respond to the situation immediately.”

The DNR stated the Japanese stiltgrass spreads after a disturbance, wherever there is a perfect opportunity to grow. It forms with dense patches that can displace native vegetation upon its expansion.

Follow these guidelines from the DNR for Japanese stiltgrass identification:

  • The plant is normally two to three feet tall, with smooth leaves that grow around three inches long;
  • It resembles small, delicate bamboo; and
  • The asymmetrical leaves are pale green and lance-shaped.

The DNR asks landowners to report any findings to Norwood at norwoodg@michigan.gov or call (517) 342-4514. Two to three photos of the plant are best for identification purposes.

To report any Japanese stiltgrass sightings in Northwestern Michigan, call the ISN at (231) 941-0960.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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