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Miscanthus sinensis

Biological Category 
Species Type 
Grass-like Plant
NY Invasiveness Rank 
LHPrism Status 
Tier 3 - Established

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  • Chinese silver grass is a member of the Grass family (Poaceae).
  • A robust, clumping perennial grass growing up to 10 feet in height, Chinese silver grass is most easily recognized by its pinkish-silvery inflorescence which generally emerges in September.

Leaves arise from a basal, central clump and are up to three feet long and 0.8-4 inches wide. The margins are finely serrated and quite sharp. (6) Leaves often have a silvery midrib. (7)

Flowers: Pink to silver fan-shaped inflorescences emerge in late summer to early fall. As seeds mature and ripen, the seed head curls at the tip, almost like fingers. (6)

Introduction History 
Brought to the United States through the horticultural trade in the 1800s, Chinese silver grass is now reported as established in at least 24 states. (5)
Ecology and Habitat 
Chinese silver grass primarily occurs in disturbed areas such as old fields, railroads, ditches and forest fringes and clearings. The species is drought tolerant and adapts to a wide variety of soils. (2)
Reproduction and Phenology 
Chinese silver grass is an abundant producer of viable seed: some plants, in ideal warm, wet conditions are capable of producing as many as 8,000 seeds in a single season. (2) Seed set depends greatly on the distance to the nearest plant of the same species, and in frost-prone regions, cold weather may reduce the number of viable seeds produced. (9) Chinese silver grass builds up an immense seed bank relatively quickly due to prodigious seed production rates, however, not much is known about how long these dormant seeds may remain viable. Some evidence suggests that in extremely acidic soils (< 4.5), germination will be reduced. The species also produces vegetatively via rhizomes buried 10-4 inches below the soil surface. These deeply buried rhizomes enable the plant to reemerge should it be top killed by fire, grazing, cutting, or other forms of management. (2) Vectors include wind, birds, horticultural trade and human activity.
Impacts of this species 

A highly aggressive clumping grass native to Asia, Chinese silver grass is capable of causing major ecosystem level alteration, including changes in total organic carbon and nitrogen soil content. (1) The species grows so densely it rapidly crowds out other plants, displacing native vegetation. In addition, Chinese silver grass is highly flammable and may increase the fire frequency and intensity in fire prone areas. (2)

Management Methods 

Biological Control
There is currently no biological control option for this species. Widespread use of this species as an ornamental makes it unlikely a biocontrol option will be pursued.

Manual or Mechanical Control
Pulling / Digging Up: Pulling by hand as a control method is possible only if the population is small, and the plants are very young. Pulling of large plants is ineffective due to a substantial root system and the species’ ability to re-sprout from rhizome fragments. Plants must be dug up making sure to remove all below-ground rhizomes. Repeat treatment will be necessary to ensure all regrowth is managed. (4)

Mowing: Mowing, hand cutting or weed whipping is challenging due to the species’ formation of very dense clumps. However, repeated cutting over a number of years has been shown to gradually decrease clump size. (3)

Girdling: Not applicable

Prescribed Fire: Studies suggest Chinese silver grass’s rhizomes are largely fire-tolerant. Prescribed burns generally reinvigorate established plants. (2)

Prescribed Grazing: Chinese silver grass is highly palatable to livestock and has a low tolerance for grazing. Several years of grazing reduces the average clump size and the number of off-shoots from the main plant. (3)

Soil Tilling: Not advisable. Tilling may fragment roots and encourage re-sprouting and vigorous growth. (8)

Mulching: Not applicable

Solarization: Not applicable

Hot Foam Spray: Not applicable

Chemical Control
The pesticide application rates and usage herein are recommendations based on research and interviews with land managers.  When considering the use of pesticides, it is your responsibility to fully understand the laws, regulations and best practices required to apply pesticides in a responsible manner.  At times, the pest you seek to treat may not be listed on a pesticide label, requiring a 2(ee) exemption from NYSDEC.  Always thoroughly read the label of any pesticide and consult the NYSDEC or a licensed pesticide applicator with questions.

Foliar Spray: A 2% solution of glyphosate applied in the late spring or fall is effective against Chinese silver grass. However, repeat spot treatments will likely be necessary 2-3 weeks after treatment. Always read and follow all instructions on the herbicide label. (3)

Cut Stump: Not applicable

Basal Bark: Not applicable


Stem Injection: Not applicable

Pre-Emergent Spray: Not applicable

Summary of Best Managment Practices 

General management overview and recommendation
For very small, young satellite infestations manual removal will suffice. However, for larger populations, a combination of chemical, manual and mechanical management methods will be necessary to achieve control. If shrinking the infestation size or population eradication is the goal, foliar sprays will be necessary and must be performed consistently, at least twice throughout the growing season. (8)

Post treatment monitoring
Depending on the management method employed, controlled populations should be revisited throughout the growing season to monitor for re-sprouting, especially if mechanical methods such as cutting or pulling are used without herbicide application. 

Disposal Methods
Waste material can be chipped, burned or composted so long as management was completed prior to seed set. Any seed heads must be bagged and disposed of, and any rhizomes thoroughly crushed or dried.