Synonym(s): Miscanthus sinensis var. gracillimus, Miscanthus sinensis var. variegatus, Miscanthus sinensis var. zebrinus
Family: Poaceae (Grass Family)
Duration and Habit: Perennial Grass/Grasslike
A highly variable robust perennial grass that can grow to 5 to 10 feet in height. It is usually found in large tufts. The branches are very flexible and spread or droop. The leaves are elongate and can measure 3 feet in length and 1 inch across. The leaves have a silver white midrib. The tips of the leaves are sharp and re-curving. The fan-shaped terminal panicle is 6 to 24 inches long and can be silvery to pale pink in color. The branches of the panicle are erect or ascending. These panicles reach full maturity in the fall. The glabrous spikelets are very small, yellow-brown in color and encircled at the base with white or purple-colored hairs. The fertile lemma contains an awn that is spirally twisted at its base.
Ecological Threat: Forms extensive infestations by escaping from older ornamental plantings to roadsides, forest margins, and adjacent disturbed sites, especially after burning. Shade tolerant. Highly flammable and a fire hazard.
Biology & Spread: Chinese silvergrass reproduce through rhizomes however seeds may be dispersed mechanically or through wind.
History: Introduced from eastern Asia. Still widely sold and increasingly planted as an ornamental. Several varieties imported and sold. New cultivars assumed to be mostly sterile.
U.S. Habitat: It prefers full sun and moist, rich soil that drains well. Slight drought can be tolerated once plants are established. Plants tolerate cold climates but do not grow well in hot, humid southern climates. Horticulturists claim it can be grown in zones 5-9, i.e. it can tolerate winter temperatures as low as -26oC (-15oF), and can survive as far south as the Florida panhandle. It has been located along disturbed areas that had been burned or cut.
U.S. Nativity: Introduced to U.S.
Native Origin: Temp. & Trop. Asia (Germplasm Resources Information Network); NatureServe Explorer
U.S. Present: AL, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, WV
Distribution: Reported invasive in CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, KY, MD, NC, NJ, PA, SC, TN, VA, and WI.
The ability of Chinese silvergrass to sprout from pieces of rhizome makes control difficult. The whole underground rhizome system must be killed in order to prevent regrowth the next year.
Manual- Digging out plants will probably result in resprouts and would need follow-up treatments. Similarly, disking and cutting methods may spread rhizome pieces into clean areas.
Chemical- It can be effectively controlled using any of several readily available general use herbicides such as glyphosate or imazapyr. Follow label and state requirements.
Miller, James H., Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests: A Field Guide for Identification and Control, USDA FS SRS-62, p. 54-55.
USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area, Forest Health Protection's Invasive Plants Website (http://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/invasive%5Fplants)
Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 82 pp.
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