Microstegium vimineum – Biology and Ecology

Research Issue

[photo:] Roadside population of Microstegium vimineum.Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass) is a non-native, shade-tolerant, annual grass that invades many plant community types, including forests, within the Eastern and Midwestern United States.  Developing a better understanding of the environmental conditions in which this species is likely to become established and spread is critical for successful forest management that also prevents or alleviates forest invasions. These conditions also include estimating this species’ competitive ability with associated native species, which will lead to more successful forest restoration or rehabilitation.

Our Research

We are evaluating this species’ establishment within forests, its survival and growth in different management types and physiographic regions (with and without deer herbivory), and its response to drought, salt, and low soil fertility under different light conditions. We are also comparing seed viability, longevity, and dormancy of this species’ different floret types (cleistogamous, chasmogamous, and those from forest interior plants) under different environmental conditions. Because this species appears to be predominantly selfing, we are studying its genetic composition and diversity in different populations.  

Expected Outcomes

We have shown that M. vimineum establishes and grows more slowly under lower light conditions. This is due, in part, to slower growth rates, but also to potential differences in seed quality produced under different light conditions. We expect M. vimineum’s response to drought, salt, and low soil fertility to be compounded by the effects of low light. Confirming the latter will help land managers focus on particular sites that are most likely to manifest high establishment and spread rates. Based on variable seed quality found in different populations, this species’ lack of genetic diversity, and our genetic analyses showing population genetic differentiation across physiographic regions, we expect to find genetic signals that allow regionally different populations of this species to respond differently to stressful environments, meaning management or control strategies may not work equally well across populations.

Research Results

Huebner, Cynthia D.; Regula, Adam E.; McGill, David W. 2018. Germination, survival, and early growth of three invasive plants in response to five forest management regimes common to US northeastern deciduous forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 425: 100-118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2018.05.037.

Redwood, Mame E.; Matlack, Glenn R.; Huebner, Cynthia D. 2018. Seed Longevity and Dormancy State Suggest Management Strategies for Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) in Deciduous Forest Sites. Weed Science. 66(02): 190-198. https://doi.org/10.1017/wsc.2017.74.

Culley, Theresa M.; Huebner, Cynthia D.; Novy, Ari. 2016. Regional and local genetic variation in Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). Invasive Plant Science and Management. 9(2): 96-111. https://doi.org/10.1614/IPSM-D-15-00055.1.

Huebner, Cynthia D. 2011. Seed mass, viability, and germination of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) under variable light and moisture conditions. Invasive Plant Science and Management. 4: 274-283. https://doi.org/10.1614/IPSM-D-10-00090.1.

Huebner, Cynthia D. 2010. Establishment of an invasive grass in closed-canopy deciduous forests across local and regional environmental gradients. Biological Invasions. 12: 2069-2080.

Huebner, Cynthia D. 2010. Spread of an invasive grass in closed-canopy deciduous forests across local and regional environmental gradients. Biological Invasions. 12: 2081-2089.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Cynthia D. Huebner, Research Botanist / Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Research Partners

  • Last modified: May 31, 2019