Microstegium vimineum

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Japanese stiltgrass
Microstegium viminium specimen.jpg
Single specimen of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), a non-native invasive plant in the United States
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Genus: Microstegium
M. vimineum
Binomial name
Microstegium vimineum

Microstegium vimineum, commonly known as Japanese stiltgrass, packing grass, or Nepalese browntop, is an annual grass that is common in a wide variety of habitats and is well adapted to low light levels.

Despite being non-native in the United States, it serves as a host plant for some native satyr butterflies, such as the Carolina Satyr Hermeuptychia sosybius[1] and the endangered Mitchell's Satyr Neonympha mitchellii.[2]


It is native in much of South Asia, East Asia, and parts of Southeast Asia, and has since moved to the United States.


It typically grows to a height of 3.5 feet and is capable of rooting at each node. The plant flowers in late summer and produces its seeds in the form of a caryopsis shortly thereafter.[3][4] It is quite similar to and often grows along with the North American grass Leersia virginica, but L. virginica lacks the distinctive silver stripe on the center of the leaf that is present on Japanese stiltgrass and also flowers one to two months earlier.[3][5]

The plant is known to be a common habitat for ticks such as the lone star tick.[citation needed] Browsing deer often transport these ticks into other areas where they can expand.[citation needed]

Invasive species ecology[edit]

Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) infestation spreading for acres in partially closed-canopy, mesic forest. Greenbelt, Maryland, United States

The plant was accidentally introduced into the U.S. state of Tennessee around 1919 as a result of being used as a packing material in shipments of porcelain from China. It has spread throughout the Southeastern US and is now found in 26 states.[6] Microstegium vimineum most commonly invades along roads, floodplain and other disturbed areas, but will also invade undisturbed habitats.[7][8][9] Whitetail deer, which do not browse the grass, may facilitate spread by browsing on native species and thereby reducing competition for the exotic plant.[10] Invasion of Microstegium can reduce growth and flowering of native species,[11] suppress native plant communities,[12] alter and suppress insect communities,[13] slow plant succession[14] and alter nutrient cycling.[15][16] However, removal of Microstegium can lead to recovery of native plant communities.[17][18][19]


As this plant serves as a host for satyr butterflies, including at least one that is ranked imperiled or endangered, its removal, unless accomplished via biological control, should be accompanied by a careful survey to avoid destroying existing butterflies in their various stages of growth as well as to ensure adequate alternative food plant availability.[20]

Biological control is the method of control that is the least-damaging to ecosystems not typified by monoculture, like forested areas, while also being the most efficient in terms of costs.[21] Biological control is the foundation of the differentiation between native species living in complex ecological balance and non-native invasive species. It is nature's method of maintaining ecological balance.[22] Herbicide application and human-managed labor such as mowing, tilling, and pulling may be preferred for managing unwanted vegetation on land that is highly-disturbed by human activity, such as agricultural land. For more complex ecosystems such as forests, effective biological control can eliminate or greatly reduce adverse impacts such as trampling and other physical disturbance such as soil compaction, the spreading of seeds from clothing, chemical toxicity, unwanted damage to non-targeted species, demanding human labor, petrochemical consumption, and other factors.[23] Biological control agents are being evaluated for their effectiveness in controlling Microstegium vimineum as well as their chance to become pests themselves.[24]

Microstegium vimineum can be controlled with pre-emergent herbicides targeted for crabgrass, in areas where native grasses subject to damage are not present in quantities sufficient to make herbicide application too undesirable. Post-emergent controls can also be considered. Some herbicides that target crab grass contain calcium acid methanearsonate, a chemical that contains the element arsenic. In the USA, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ranked arsenic as number 1 in its 2001 Priority List of Hazardous substances at Superfund sites.[25] Surfactants should be added to herbicides for better control, unless noted. Non-ionic surfactants are considered less damaging for other plant life, while crop oil containing surfactant is often considered somewhat more effective in killing grasses.[26] Glyphosate has been found to be effective in controlling Microstegium vimineum by using as little as a half-percent of the concentrate in water. Being a non-specific herbicide, however, its effectiveness can come with damage to desirable plant life. Glyphosate also binds to soil phosphate, potentially causing a reduction in phosphate available for the remaining plant life.[27] In addition to herbicides, hand weeding and mowing can be used for removal, in circumstances where such methods are appropriate. As this grass is an annual, in order to be effective, mowing must be performed before the plants go to seed.[28]


  1. ^ "Butterflies of North Carolina". NC Parks Service. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  2. ^ "Host and Nectar Plants". USF Water Institute. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  3. ^ a b Thieret, John W. (2006), "Mictrostegium", in Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+ (ed.), Flora of North America, 25, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press
  4. ^ Chen, Shou-liang ; Phillips, Sylvia M. (2007), "Microstegium vimineum", in Wu, Z. Y.; Raven, P.H.; Hong, D.Y. (ed.), Flora of China, 22, Beijing: Science Press; St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden Press, p. 593, retrieved 2007-07-14
  5. ^ Swearingen, Jil M.; Adams, Sheherezade (2006). "Japanese Stiltgrass". Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-06-27.
  6. ^ USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 19 August 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  7. ^ Redman, D.E. 1005. Distribution and habitat types for Nepal Microstegium (Microstegium vimineum) in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Castenea, 60:270-275
  8. ^ Cole, P.G. and J.G. Weltzin. 2005. Environmental correlates of the distribution and abundance of Microstegium vimineum in east Tennessee. Southeastern Naturalis, 3:545-563.
  9. ^ Moretensen, D.A., E.S.J. Rauschert, A.N Nord and B.P. Jones. 2009. Forest roads facilitate the spread of invasive plants. Invasive Plant Science and Management. 2:191-199
  10. ^ Knight TM, Dunn JL, Smith LA, Davis J, Kalisz S (2009) Deer facilitate invasive plant success in a Pennsylvania forest understory. Nat Areas J 29:110–116
  11. ^ Bauer, J.T. and Flory, S.L. 2011. Suppression of the woodland herb Senna hebecarpa by the invasive grass Microstegium vimineum. American Midland Naturalist. 165:105-115.
  12. ^ Flory, S.L. and K. Clay. 2010. Non-native grass invasion alters native plant composition in experimental communities. Biological Invasions 12:1285-1294
  13. ^ Simao, M.C., S.L. Flory, and J.A. Rudgers. 2010. Experimental plant invasion reduces arthropod abundance and richness across multiple trophic levels. Oikos 119:1553-1562.
  14. ^ Flory, S.L. and K. Clay. 2010. Non-native grass invasion suppresses forest succession. Oecologia 164:1029-1038.
  15. ^ Ehrenfeld, J.G. 2003 Effects of exotic plant invasions on soil nutrient cycling processes. Ecosystems 6:503–523
  16. ^ Lee, M., S.L. Flory, and R. Phillips. 2012. Positive feedbacks to growth of an invasive grass through alteration of nitrogen cycling. Oecologia. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-012-2309-9
  17. ^ Flory, S.L. 2010. Management of Microstegium vimineum invasions and recovery of resident plant communities. Restoration Ecology. 18:103-112
  18. ^ Flory, S.L. and K. Clay. 2009. Invasive plant removal method determines native plant community responses. Journal of Applied Ecology. 4:434-442.
  19. ^ DeMeeste, J.E., Richter, D.D. 2010. Restoring restoration: removal of the invasive plant Microstegium vimineum from a North Carolina wetland. Biological Invasions 12:781–793
  20. ^ "Mitchell's Satyr". USF Water Institute. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  21. ^ Eubanks, HM.D., Hoffmann, J.H., Lewis, E.E., Liu, J., Melnick, R., Michaud, J.P., Ode, P., Pell, J.K., 2017. Biological Control Journal. Elsevier. https://www.journals.elsevier.com/Biological-Control
  22. ^ UF IFAS, 2017. Biological Control. University of Florida. https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/manage/control-methods/biological-control/
  23. ^ Driesche, F.V.; Blossey, B.; Hoodle, M.; Lyon, S.; Reardon, R., 2010. Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the Eastern United States. USDA Forest Service. Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. http://wiki.bugwood.org/Archive:BCIPEUS
  24. ^ Hough-Goldstein, J., Ding, J., Bruckart III, W., 2014. A Biological Control Feasibility Study of the Invasive Weed Japanese Stiltgrass. USDA Forest Service. https://www.fs.fed.us/foresthealth/technology/pdfs/BCIP_2014_Hough-Goldstein_Proposal.pdf
  25. ^ Savage, N., 2002. Biogeochemistry of Arsenic in Contaminated Soils of Superfund Sites. US EPA. https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.highlight/abstract/6015
  26. ^ Joyner, S., 2015. CLETHODIM 2 EC HERBICIDE. US EPA. https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/ppls/083222-00030-20150105.pd
  27. ^ Gimsing, A., Borggaard, O., Bang, M., 2003. Influence of soil composition on adsorption of glyphosate and phosphate by contrasting Danish surface soils. European Journal of Soil Science. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2389.2003.00585.x/abstract
  28. ^ Kleczewski, N., Flory, S.L. and Nice, G. 2011. An Introduction to Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stiltgrass/Nepalese browntop) an Emerging Invasive Grass in the Eastern United States. Indiana University Department of Biology. www.btny.purdue.edu/weedscience/2011/Microstegium-01.pdf

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