Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Invasive Species Spotlight: Wavyleaf Basketgrass

Guest post by Jacqueline Hyman

Wavyleaf Basketgrass is a low-growing perennial grass that has a somewhat mysterious beginning in Maryland, said an invasive plant ecologist at the Department of Natural Resources.

   Kerrie Kyde said two patches were found and reported in 1995, tested by many botanists, and eventually identified after a sample was sent to Germany in 1999. Kyde said the plant was rediscovered covering many acres in 2007.

    “My suspicion is that 1996 was not the year of entry, that it had already been here before that,” Kyde said, “but probably not too long before that.”

    Wavyleaf Basketgrass has deep green leaves with ripples across the surface, and the leaf sheath and stem “are noticeably hairy,” according to Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. Additionally, it can grow to be as tall as 24 inches, said Kyde. “It covers the ground, but it doesn’t lie flat on the surface the way crabgrass does,” Kyde said.

    The awns are sticky, which allows seeds to spread to far places, Kyde said. She said they start to bloom in July and can last until after the first frost, but are stickiest in October. 

    Because of this “incredible distribution system,” Kyde said it is easy for people to spread the plant’s growth.

    Kyde said when she works in fields where Wavyleaf Basketgrass is present, she wraps duct tape around her hand backwards and uses it like a lint roller on her clothes. These seeds must be contained in a plastic bag and thrown in the trash.

    Wearing slick clothes, such as rain gear, helps prevent the seeds from sticking to clothes at all.
    Kyde said the plant does not like the sun, and grows primarily in disturbed woodlands. It can thrive in a range of habitats, she said, such as in moist, low places and in dry soil at the top of mountains.

    Although the plant is easy to remove, the task is time-consuming, said Kyde. “It’s very weakly rooted, it’s completely pullable by hand,” she said. “The trouble with that is that you have to get out all the roots.”

    Plant Invaders strongly advises gardeners not to buy or plant seeds of this or any basketgrass plant in the Mid-Atlantic states.

The  "Invasive Species Spotlight" is a summer blog series focusing on a different plant each week that is a problem for Mid-Atlantic home gardeners.

About the author:
Jacqueline Hyman is a junior journalism and English major at the University of Maryland. She is the editor-in-chief of the Mitzpeh, an independent Jewish newspaper at UMD. In addition, Jacqueline enjoys musical theater, and teaches piano and voice at Guitar Center. She is excited to be interning this summer for the Washington Gardener

Image credit: Invasive wavyleaf basketgrass covers part of the forest floor in the South River Greenway in Maryland Photo by Rich Mason/USFWS.

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