Chemical, mechanical, and biological methods are used to manage invasive plants, but their effectiveness at removing specific plant invaders while preserving native communities varies widely. Chemical methods are used most extensively but the nontarget effects of some herbicides can have lasting effects on native plants. Nonchemical methods are needed for sites containing rare or threatened native species and where the cost of herbicides is prohibitive. Here we evaluate multiple nonchemical methods for removing Japanese stiltgrass, a nonnative annual grass that is rapidly invading eastern U.S. forests. We applied mowing, hand weeding, and spring and fall fire treatments to replicated plots at three forested sites in southern Indiana and compared the response of Japanese stiltgrass and native plants to untreated reference plots. Mowing and fall fires applied just before seed set were the most effective methods for removing Japanese stiltgrass. Mowing decreased invader cover by 70% and biomass by 95%, whereas fall fires reduced cover by 79% and biomass by 90% compared to reference plots. Spring fire reduced Japanese stiltgrass cover, but not biomass, and hand weeding did not significantly reduce invader cover or biomass compared to untreated plots. There were no significant differences in the response of the overall native plant community or of specific native plant functional groups to the removal treatments. In summary, mowing and properly timed fall fires may be effective nonchemical methods for managing Japanese stiltgrass invasions and restoring native communities. Future research should focus on evaluating the responses of Japanese stiltgrass, native species, and other plant invaders to removal treatments conducted over successive growing seasons across a range of invaded habitats.
Nomenclature: Japanese stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus.