University of Maryland Extension

Japanese stiltgrass

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Japanese stiltgrass*
Microstegium vimineum

Japanese stiltgrass

Life cycle

Invasive* summer annual. 

Growth habit 

Bright green grass has silver hairs down the center of its short bamboo-like bladegrows up to 2 ft. tall. Has a weak and shallow root system.

foliage of Japanese stiltgrass
Closeup of leaf blade
Photo: Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University,

Japanese stiltgrass foliage
Notice silvery stripe of reflective hairs down
middle of the leaf surface
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Japanese stiltgrass plants
Seed heads developing on Japanese stiltgrass. Remove (cut, mow) plants at this stage to limit seed dispersal. Photo: Ellen Nibali


Roots at nodes; elongates quickly in fall, then produces seed banks which stay viable in the soil for many years. Dies back in the fall. Seeds germinate in late winter/early spring. The sticky, tiny seeds can be spread into other areas on the fur and hooves of animals (deer), by water, shoes, and clothes. 

Conditions that favor growth 

Invades and alters disturbed soils in sun or shade. Tolerates low mowing. 

stiltgrass on forest floor
Japanese stiltgrass infestation in a natural area
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, 


Cultural control in ornamental beds

Prevent going to seed; hand pulls easily. Do not compost plants with seed heads.

Forested Areas

In Lawns

  • Cultural Practices 
    Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment. 
  • Mechanical Management
    Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.

  • Chemical Prevention/Treatment in Lawns
    Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these precautions first. 
    Use a granular (apply with a spreader), selective, preemergent herbicide. Apply a preemergent without nitrogen fertilizer. Look for the active ingredient: Prodiamine (Barricade) or other preemergents labeled for crabgrass control. Apply in early spring (March) before it germinates. It germinates earlier than crabgrass so to prevent J. stiltgrass the preemergent needs to be applied a couple of weeks earlier than for crabgrass prevention.
    Rainfall or irrigation is required to dissolve the herbicide which is then absorbed into the upper portion of the soil and forms a barrier which kills weed seedlings. Preemergent grass herbicides have residual activity that lasts for several weeks after application. High temperatures and rainfall will decrease the length of time they remain at sufficient concentration to be effective.

    Tips for application:
    • If planning soil disturbance, such as aeration, do it before application.
    • Apply prior to seed germination which begins, in early spring a couple of weeks before crabgrass seeds germinate.
    • Water after application, according to label.
    • A second application may be possible, usually 6-8 weeks later (see product label).
    • Consult label for specific waiting period between application and overseeding.

      If Japanese stiltgrass is present in your lawn a postemergent herbicide labeled to control annual grass weeds like crabgrass can be used to spot treat young weeds. Herbicides do not work well on mature plants. Look for the active ingredient Fenoxaprop. 

Additional Resources

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