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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

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Forest Disturbance Processes

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 and estimating its spread rate from roadside populations over a moisture gradient.    We are also currently comparing seed viability of this species’ different floret types (cleistogamous, chasmogamous, and those from forest interior plants) under different environmental conditions, including a variety of light levels. Because this species appears to be predominantly selfing, we are studying its genetic diversity in different populations over both light and moisture gradients.  

Expected Outcomes

We expect M. vimineum to become established and grow more slowly under lower light conditions.  The latter will be due, in part, to slower growth rates (stressful growing conditions, despite its shade-tolerance), but also to differences in seed quality produced under different light conditions.  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, we expect to find low genetic diversity within a population but relatively higher genetic diversity across populations.  Genetic differences across populations may show that selection has occurred and that management or control strategies may not work equally well across populations.

Research Results

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

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

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

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

Research Partners

  • Keith Clay and Angie Shelton, Indiana University
  • Theresa Culley, University of Cincinnati, OH
  • Rakesh Minocha, Research Plant Physiologist, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Last Modified: 09/09/2010