Bad News, Good News

Bad news: a particularly nasty invasive–Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium viminium)–is coming in along Bassett Brook on the east campus. You can see it at bottom right on the photo above.

Good news: we did not see it on the north campus, but all you folks there, keep your eyes out, especially along your stream!

Bad news: On the east campus, there’s quite a lot of stilt grass. It’s crowding out our beautiful native like this boneset (that’s mostly stiltgrass in the background).

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More bad news: Stilt grass is highly aggressive. It is an annual grass whose millions of seeds spread along waterways and by animals. It can tolerate a wide variety of light conditions. It forms monocultures on stream banks, crowding out all the beautiful wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs that support our native insects, amphibians, and birds. It came here from the orient as packing material for porcelain. It left its own predators and competitors behind in its native land. Our own wildlife can make little use of it. This is a web picture of stilt grass that has totally taken over a forest, eliminating native wildflowers and new trees.stilt grass understory 1378046-SMPT

Still more bad news: Stilt grass is just beginning to be seen in our area. When our naturalist consultant Laurie Sanders saw it along our brook, she immediately sent word out to local conservationists. Her message began, “Oh no! (edited version).”

Good news: There are ways to control stilt grass. You can pull it easily out of the ground. You can weedwhack it in August before it goes to seed, and, because it’s an annual, the parent plants will die out in winter. You can use various herbicides but they have other effects, especially in wetlands. You can use a pre-emergent, corn gluten, which will prevent all annuals from sprouting, but that, too, has other effects.

More good news. The well-known and well-respected regional expert on control of invasive plants, Chris Polatin, has already begun some work to weed whack stilt grass on our brook.

Still more good news. At Chris’ initiative, he will lead a workshop for local conservationists and Lathrop residents on Saturday, September 13, at 2:30 p.m., in the Mt. Tom Room. The presentation will be followed by a walk back to Bassett Brook to see our stilt grass and the work that has been done.

Really good news: This collaborative work extends Lathrop’s connections with the conservation community in the Valley. At the meeting, we will distribute a handout with some information about Lathrop and about our land conservation efforts.

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