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The Journal Gazette

Friday, November 20, 2015 1:37 pm

Verbatim: Japanese stiltgrass found in Huntertown area

The Journal Gazette

The Nature Conservancy issued this news release today:

(FORT WAYNE, IN) — Northeastern Indiana unfortunately has its share of invasive species. Garlic mustard threatens the spring wildflowers displays in our woodlands, and zebra mussels are wreaking havoc on our waterways, causing headaches for recreationists. But one really damaging invasive plant, Japanese stiltgrass, hadn’t bullied its way into our corner of the state.

That all changed when Ben Hess, regional ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources - Division of Nature Preserves, was recently called out by a private contractor to confirm the presence of Japanese stiltgrass at a private residence. After confirmation of the plant at this property, further searching confirmed its presence on several roadsides, private property and several ACRES Land Trust preserves in the Huntertown area. “ACRES is grateful we've found this early enough to do something about it," said Jason Kissel, Executive Director of ACRES Land Trust.

The occurrence along roadsides and trails is not a coincidence. “This plant moves by getting its small seeds in boot and tire treads,” noted Hess. “It is crucial that people avoid driving over this grass in infested areas, and clean their boot treads before and after walking in any of the natural areas in northeast Indiana to keep from moving this invader to new locations.”

Japanese stiltgrass is a non-native annual grass that was introduced to the southeastern U.S. from Asia in the early 1900s. It is highly invasive and is now found in much of the eastern U.S. and in southern Indiana counties. Invasions of Japanese stiltgrass can quickly crowd out native wildflowers and even morel mushrooms. Invasions can also reduce tree regeneration and slow the growth of tree seedlings.

Multiple land management organizations, including ACRES Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana DNR Division of Nature Preserves, Allen County Highway Department, Fort Wayne Parks, Fort Wayne Trails, and Little River Wetlands met in the area on October 28th to assess the infestation and create a collaborative approach to control it before it spreads.

“Southern Indiana watched this invasive grass sweep through one forest after another, too late to stop its invasion,” said Ellen Jacquart, Director of Northern Indiana Stewardship for The Nature Conservancy. “We have a chance here in northeast Indiana to draw a line and keep it out of our forests.”

To do that, says Jacquart, will require a collaborative effort to take swift and effective measures to eradicate this invasive plant as soon as possible.

Jacquart credits one of the partners, the Allen County Highway Department, for its willingness help in this effort. Because Japanese stiltgrass moves like wildfire along roads, roadside maintenance crews are stepping up to the plate, planning to mow and spray infestations to keep the invasive plant from spreading.

Where will you find Japanese stiltgrass?

It is often found invading along roads, trails, and streams, but can colonize in a variety of habitats including sunny, open ridgetops and river and stream habitats. Areas that have been disturbed (e.g. yards, streambanks, forests with windthrows or timber harvests) are especially vulnerable to invasions.

How do you identify Japanese stiltgrass?

In late fall and winter, it is hard to identify Japanese stiltgrass because it has died back. From May to October, Japanese stiltgrass is identified by its relatively broad, bright green leaves that often form a shallow ‘v’ as they extend from the stem. Leaves also have a faint luminescent line down the mid-section. It is most often found in dense patches over three feet in diameter. It produces seed in September and October, while most native grasses produce seed much earlier in the year (June-July).

What should you do if you find Japanese stiltgrass?

During the growing season (April – September), if you see a suspected infestation take a picture of the grass and report the infestation on-line through Report IN, a simple invasive plant reporting system found at EDDMapS.org/Indiana. Reports will be checked and verified by experts. Once you have positively identified Japanese stiltgrass, you should work to eradicate it. Fortunately, controlling this invasive grass with grass-specific herbicides or hand-weeding can quickly restore the diversity of an area.

How can you prevent the spread of Japanese stiltgrass?

Preventing the movement of Japanese stiltgrass is the highest priority in management. Clean your boots, clothes and equipment to make sure you don’t carry seeds to new areas.