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Minney, C - Microstegium vimineum

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 7 months ago




Coleman Minney



Microstegium vimineum




            Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus, or as it is most commonly known Japanese stilt grass or Nepalese browntop is an annual grass native to Asia.  I first became interested in this plant while working for Wayne National Forest last summer.  I was part of a team hired to eradicate invasive plant species from Wayne land.  Stilt grass caught my eye because of it’s ability to dominate the area in which it was growing to the point where it completely covered the ground in a dense mass.  Many of the roads and trails cut through Wayne National Forest were blanketed for several hundred feet with this single species.  As a botanist in training and because of it’s threatening nature to the forests of where I live I decided it would be a good idea to learn something about it. 

Stilt grass is common in it’s native habitat of Asia and is considered an invasive species in the United States.  It ranges from Massachusetts to Texas and has been found in Puerto Rico.  

Stilt grass is used in shipping porcelain from Asia as a packing material.  This is believed to be the source of it’s introduction which occurred in Tennessee in 1919. (The Pennsylvania Floral Project)  Stilt grass has been utilized in basket-weaving and has been planted as an ornamental like many other Asian invasive species.  It has also been used for erosion control and for foraging. (Miller)

Stilt grass is a C4 warm-season grass that prefers shaded areas and moist soils with acidic to neutral conditions and high in nitrogen.  It’s most often

found in marshes, floodplains, damp meadows, trails, and along streams.  (The Pennsylvania Floral Project)  Stilt grass is commonly found in disturbed soils where activities such as mowing or tilling take place.  (Invasive Species Specialist Group)

Stilt grass can reach forty inches in height and are relatively flimsy.  The leaves have a distinctive silver streak running along the midrib of the leaf.  This is the most distinguishing mark from other similar native grasses in my opinion.  The inflorescence (flowering) of the plant is inconspicuous and occurs very late in summer into September.(The Pennsylvania Floral Project) 

Stilt grass is a colonial plant that roots from the nodes.  The plant produces 100-1,000 seeds that can remain in the soil for 5 years and they are dispersed most commonly by animals, flooding and soil movement.  Stilt grass is capable of moving into a disturbed area and forming dense monotypic stands (of the same plant) and typically out performs competing species in three to five years.  This is why the plant is such a threat to native species. (SE-EPPC Invasive Plant Manual)

Once Stilt grass has become established the native species have no chance of returning to the area naturally.  It has also been suggested that Stilt grass alter soil conditions such as pH and organic composition to the point where native species could not reestablish themselves if they got the chance.  (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences)  Stilt grass is a C4 plant making it tolerant to low light conditions.  This is one reason why it is particularly threatening to forest understories. (Rochelle)








Immature Stilt grass plant in June. 



Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org   from: http://www.ipmimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=2307199





A dense mass of Stilt grass, in September during it’s flowering season.  You can see the silver streak in the middle of the leaves.



Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org   from: http://www.ipmimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=2307204





Microstegium vimineum is native to the Indo-Malay biogeographical region.  It is found in South, East and Southeastern Asia.















Habitat, habitat threats and control measures




          Microstegium vimineum or Japanese stilt grass is native to southern Asia including Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, India, and the Caucasus. It has extended its range into parts of Asia it is not native to, such as Pakistan, Nepal and Turkey.  (USDA Forest Service)  It can be found in all the biogeographical realms of the Indo-Malay biome.  The plant is considered highly invasive in the United States. Stilt grass now has widespread distribution in the Eastern United States since it’s first documented introduction in Tennessee in 1917.  It ranges from Massachusetts to Texas and every state in between. Japanese Stilt grass is also found in the Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forest and Temperate Coniferous Forest habitats of the United States. 

            Japanese stilt grass is found in a wide array of habitats.  Stilt grass grows in moderate to densely shaded areas.  It also tends to grow in high nitrogen, moist soils but rarely in areas that experience periods of standing water.  (N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences)  Stilt grass is often found in damp meadows, ditches, floodplains, woodland borders, along streamsides and on trails and roadsides. (The Pennsylvania Floral Project)  This weed is most often found in naturally or human disturbed areas where soil has been moved or shifted.  (Invasive Species Specialist Group)  Stilt grass grows in undisturbed areas as well.  It has been documented as high as 1,2000 meters but is typically not found on higher altitude sites. 

            Japanese stilt grass is a threat to it’s habitat because it invades an area and replaces the native plant species that would otherwise grow there.  Stilt grass has the ability to form dense, monotypic stands in 3 to 5 years that crowd out native herbaceous species.  (The Pennsylvania Floral Project)  The weed moves swiftly into disturbed areas and after establishing a population it is able to out-compete native grasses.  Stilt grass may be responsible for changing the soil it grows in.  It reduces soil and litter horizons and raises pH levels.  (Invasive Species Specialist Group)  Japanese Stilt grass destroys some native animal’s habitats and cause other problems . One example is the quail.  Monotypic stands of stilt grass are not as good habitat for quail nesting as native species and stilt grass populations create habitat for cotton rats that prey on quail nests.  (Invasive Species Specialist Group)

            The two mains forms of control measures taken to eradicate Japanese stilt grass are mechanical and through the use of pesticides.  During my job this summer at Wayne National Forest I used these two approaches.  We would spend all day weed-wacking large patches of monotypic stands that stretched through entire gas road networks.  The strategy is to do this late in the summer during flowering but before seed production occurs.  Control measures such as mowing or prescribed burning carried out early in the growing season will not work because seeds from the seed bank will germinate afterwards and be able to

produce seeds before the end of the summer. (The Pennsylvania Floral Project) This is true of hand-pulling the weeds themselves.  Hand-pulling is probably the most effective mechanical technique if it is carried out correctly but it requires a lot of man power and time. (Invasive Species Specialist Group) Whatever activity is tried it must be continued for seven consecutive years because this is how long the seeds stay viable in the ground.  There are no biological controls yet and grazing is not an effective technique because most livestock avoid eating the weed altogether.  (The Pennsylvania Floral Project)

            The other technique of chemical control is common and is used by Wayne National Forest as well as mechanical techniques.  This technique should also be carried out late in the growing season right before the weed flowers.  This process can be somewhat time consuming and labor intensive when using back pack units to spray herbicide with.  Wayne National Forest bought a mounted sprayer that could be attached to the back of an ATV and was capable of spraying a much larger area in a much faster time.  Herbicides may be the only practical approach to controlling large infestations of stilt grass.  Glyphosate, Sethoxydim and fluazifop are examples of effective herbicides used against stilt grass.  (Miller) I know from experience however that spraying herbicides can be an unpleasant task and the right conditions are needed for safe application. 

            The best way to manage invasive species is to prevent their establishment in an area.  This is best achieved by maintaining native plant communities and surveying and monitoring frequently the areas where invasive species such as Japanese stilt grass are likely to exist.  In the case that a population of stilt grass does establish itself, early control is vital.  Successful control of Japanese stilt grass is most easily accomplished by using several control methods together. Preventive measures should be taken after the invasive species has been eradicated such as establishing desirable native species.  (USDA Forest Service)



This is the distribution of Japanese stiltgrass in the United States.












The native range of Japanese stilt grass includes the underlined countries of Asia below.


















Jacques, Rochelle R. 2007. Effects of Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus (Asian stiltgrass; Poaceae) on native hardwood seedling growth and survival. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from: http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/send-pdf.cgi/Jacques%20Rochelle%20R.pdf?ohiou1180715972



Invasive Images [Internet] Bugwood Network. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from: http://www.ipmimages.org/search/action.cfm?q=ted%20bodner&Start=16&results=15



Japanese Stilt Grass [Internet] North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from: http://www.naturalsciences.org/conservation/invasives/stiltgrass.htm



Japanese Stilt Grass [Internet] The Pennsylvania Floral Project. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from: http://www.paflora.org/Microstegium%20vimineum.pdf



Microstegium vimineum [Internet] Invasive Species Specialist Group. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from: http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=686&fr=1&sts=sss



Microstegium vimineum [Internet] USDA Forest Service [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from:  http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/graminoid/micvim/all.html#DISTRIBUTION%20AND%20OCCURRENCE



Miller, James H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Revised. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 p.



Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant Manual [Internet] Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from: http://www.se-eppc.org/manual/japgrass.html



World Map [Internet] CIA Factbook. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from: http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view?back=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fimages%3Fp%3Dworld%2Bmap%26fr%3Dyfp-t-501%26toggle%3D1




Asia Map [Internet] A guide to Asia. [cited 2008 Feb 18] Available from:





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