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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

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