How Invasive is Chinese Silvergrass?

Chinese silvergrass, Miscanthus sinensis, is a beautiful ornamental grass. In its native range, it inhabits disturbed areas and meadows. Here in North America, it escapes cultivation to occupy similar types of places, and, given enough time it can displace native meadow vegetation. If you have not yet had the opportunity to see how invasive this species can be, then this is your chance.

I was driving home from a meeting in Baltimore County when I started to notice occasional Miscanthus plants growing in unkempt areas along the roadside. This went on for a mile or two, and then suddenly I arrived at what quite clearly was the epicenter. The lighting was perfect, so I pulled over, grabbed my little video camera and went for a walk around the area to see how extensive the infestation might be. The footage posted here is unedited so you will see exactly what I saw on that walk.

I mentioned the Miscanthus to a friend who used to walk past this substation to get to school, and he told me Miscanthus was planted at the substation in the mid-1980s, and that it has spread a little each year ever since. Now it occupies several private properties, and as per his description “miles” of the local power lines.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, Miscanthus spreads by both seeds and rhizomes. It is very difficult to eradicate once established because even small bits of rhizome will start new plants. They also warn that it is highly flammable, and at this time of year it should be considered a fire hazard.

What about you? Do you see Miscanthus escaping in your area? Leave us a comment!

Learn more about invasive plants in Maryland.

By Sara Tangren, Ph. D
Agent Associate | Master Gardener Trainer | Sustainable Horticulture and Native Plants

4 Comments on “How Invasive is Chinese Silvergrass?

  1. Great post Sara. Miscanthus has become a substantial pest in Prince George’s County, especially on agricultural sites, powerlines, managed meadows, and stormwater facilities.

    I have seen many unfortunate cases of the plant colonizing 50-100 acres of land, displacing native vegetation, and in some cases very sensitive habitat, as shown at http://www.mdinvasivesp.org/archived_invaders/archived_invaders_2017_11.html

    I was at a site yesterday, Walker Mill Regional Park, where Miscanthus has spread into more than 100 acres of open space.

    It is especially a problem for parks that may have historical agricultural fields that may not be farmed ever year and powerlines that are managed as Meadows. In the trade it is simply called Miscanthus, and is still widely popular. So critical to get the word out about the problems this species causes in Maryland!

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  2. I’ve seen it escaping along roadsides in Talbot County. Like Bradford (callery) pears, seed production increases when two different cultivars are growing nearby.

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  3. There are so many invasive exotics in some places that the natives are rare. This is why the once abundant California poppy is not so prominent near the coast. It is still there, but not nearly as prolific as it should be.

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  4. Neighbors planted two clumps of miscanthus to grace the elegant entrance to their estate in Baltimore County. Almost immediately it escaped into the woodland edge across the road. They recently removed the original clumps but the grasses across the road are spreading unchecked into the woods and along the road. Would love to know how to remove these effectively.

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