The Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry is urging landowners and nursery professionals to check for an aggressive, invasive plant that’s only recently been confirmed in Maine.
“Japanese stiltgrass is a plant that came over to the United States in 1919 in Tennessee as a kind of packing material for china, and other uses,” says state horticulturalist Gary Fish.
Fish says Japanese stiltgrass had never been confirmed in Maine until a couple of weeks ago when it was discovered at a plant nursery in York County. He says it’s one of the most harmful non-native invasive plants.
“It alters the soil pH. It basically takes over the forest understory. It’s very likely to take over floodplain forest and other areas that are very sensitive habitat, so it affects birds like the thrushes, or the ovenbird, or the veeries, and probably turtles and salamanders,” he says.
Fish says each annual plant multiplies quickly by dropping up to a thousand seeds each fall.
“Over a few years you get such a thick thatch layer that it prevents other plants from germinating and completely takes over the site, so it excludes all those other native plants that we need to feed our wildlife and provide them with habitat,” he says.
Fish says Japanese stiltgrass has a passing resemblance to some other common plants such as Pennsylvania Smartweed, but has a telltale silver stripe running lengthwise down the center of each leaf.
Anyone who identifies Japanese stiltgrass is asked to alert the Department.