Initially found in Eurasia, wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus undulatifolius) is an invasive species that has crept into northern Virginia forests. As a low-lying perennial grass, it threatens ecosystems by suffocating forest floors in the shade. Now that more than 20 Virginia counties have identified infestations, including Fairfax, it is critical that we do our part to stop the spread.
The first indication of a wavyleaf basketgrass infestation in the USA was in Patapsco Valley State Park, Maryland, during the 1990s. It has now spread throughout Maryland and northern Virginia, and even throughout the Shenandoah National Park. Wavyleaf basketgrass grows quickly and low to the ground. It is very shade-tolerant, which allows it to thrive under thick forest canopies. Let’s learn how to identify wavyleaf basketgrass.
Ways to Identify Wavyleaf Basketgrass
- The leaves have a ridge-like pattern that resembles a pleat. The leaf blades are between 0.5” to 1” in width and between 1” to 4” in length.
- Leaves sprout directly from the center stem, similar to Japanese stiltgrass.
- The stems are covered in fuzzy hairs.
- The seeds are sharp spikelets. They bloom from mid-August through November.
- The plant grows parallel to the ground
Wavyleaf basketgrass is a fierce ecological competitor. Due to the dense layers created as the plant grows, many other low-lying plants do not get adequate sunlight to survive once covered. Even shade-adept plants suffer under the carpet of wavyleaf basketgrass. Additionally, as the grass grows along the forest floor it displaces native plants and dominates in the battle for resources. As a fairly new invasive species, there is not yet an effective control measure in place. This means the grass can spread at a concerningly fast pace until it covers acres of forest floors.
Wavyleaf basketgrass is exceptionally hard to control the spread of because its prickly seeds produce a sticky substance that aids in attaching to animals, people, and camping/hiking equipment. This allows seeds to be carried across long distances with ease. The spikelets pose the risk of coming home with you to invade your garden! Take the following precautions to help reduce the dispersion of this menace.
How to Combat The Spread
- Stay on trails – if you go into the woods or on a hiking trail, staying on the clear paths will reduce the risk of tracking seeds on your shoes.
- Clean off clothing – Before getting back in your car to head home from a hike, check your shoes, pants, and your pet’s fur to remove any seeds that latched on. This is especially important during fall when the grass is in bloom.
- Remove the plants – if you identify any wavyleaf basket grass, you can pull it out of the ground. Just be sure it is the correct plant and be sure to get all of the roots as well.
- Discard with trash – when removing and discarding this invasive grass, it is vital that you through it away with regular household trash. Do not add it to your compost or in bags with other yard waste. This can cause the invasion to spread further.
As we learn more about the impacts this invasive plant can have on our local ecosystem, we must take precautions to protect our environment. According to the Penn State Extension, seeds can survive at least a year. This means they are a threat even after we have long forgotten about them sticking to our socks after a walk one fall evening. In order to minimize the negative effects wavyleaf basketgrass may have on our forests, we must remain vigilant to doing our part to disposing of it properly. Luckily, RTEC is here to help! Contact us to learn about our invasive species programs!