The goal of Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s “Invasive Species of the Month” is to highlight those organisms that are non-native to New Jersey and cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health. We can all help prevent the spread of invasives by learning which species are a threat to our ecosystems.
Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
Chinese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) is a popular ornamental plant that has spread from yards and commercial landscapes and is being found in increased numbers invading meadows, roadsides, utility rights-of-ways and other open areas in New Jersey. One or two clumps soon multiply and when not controlled, can push out native plants that are critical for wildlife.
There are over 50 forms sold in the US nursery trade. This invasive grass is easily recognized in late summer and fall by its long fan-shaped terminal flowers that can be 6 to 24 inches long and silvery to pale pink in color. The plant itself can grow up to 8 feet tall.
Ecological threat– Silver Grass quickly spreads over open disturbed areas and pushes out native plants that pollinators, migrating birds, butterflies, and other wildlife depend on for habitat. Its large size allows it to dominate and when dry it is extremely flammable.
Method of spread– Silver grass spreads by seeds and rhizomes.
Preferred habitat– Silver grass prefers dry, sunny sites, and can live in nutrient poor soils.
Removal methods– Do not plant Silver grass. Cut off the flower stalks to prevent the plant from going to seed. Bag the stalks and throw it in the garbage. Do not compost. Herbicides such as glyphosate and imazapyr can be used for control following the herbicide label instructions.
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) grows from 2- 5 ft and does well in dry to moist sites in full sun. It is salt and drought tolerant, and deer resistant. It fits well into borders, foundation plantings, and as a screen.
If you are looking for shorter species, Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectablis) has beautiful purple blooms, grows 1- 2 ft and does well in dry to average sites in full sun. It is drought tolerant, is a good lawn alternative and is deer resistant.
Additional native species include Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), and Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis).
Additional resources for controlling Silver Grass: