Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sound the alarm! Miscanthus hoodlums escaping!

There is no doubt that the exotic species Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese silvergrass) is very heavily used in commercial and residential landscaping. I see them everywhere nowadays, from mall parking lots, office lots, to the front yards of suburban homes. Even arboretums like the Frelinghuysen Arboretum  in Morristown,  New Jersey use it extensively due to its beautiful form and flowers. But at least until recently, I have not seen "escaped" specimens that have jumped the fence here in New Jersey and made its way into the wild.

M. sinensis behind Panicum virgatum and Pennisetum sp, and Festuca glauca (Frelinghuysen Arboretum)

This changed when I visited the South Mountain Recreation Complex in Essex County, which featured a huge reservoir surrounded by a paved path. People can walk or run around the lake using this path, and trails peel off from it to go into the deeper woodland hiking paths.

All along the perimeter of this path are planted shrubbery as well as ornamental grasses, and one of the species used was of course M. sinensis. I was able to tell it was this because even though all the grasses had been cut to the ground for the winter, I still spotted some of the distinctive inflorescence spikes of this species lying nearby.

Escaped M. sinensis along side of woods
Imagine my surprise when we left the main path and crossed a hilly outcrop to intersect a hiking path entrance, only to see uncut but dried clumps of M. sinensis growing along the woodland edges! There was one main cluster perhaps 4 meters away from some of the cut ornamentals, but there were also secondary clusters and individuals farther away and enmeshed in the native undergrowth.
Escaped M. sinensis in the undergrowth

Fortunately, unlike some other invasive grasses, rhizome expansion in this species is not as aggressive, but it still is somewhat of a concern that this particular population is showing signs of expansion into the nature trails. Time will only tell if this burgeoning invasion will create significant problems in the future.

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