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Natural History Survey of the Ornamental Grass Miscanthus sinensis in the Introduced Range

  • Ryan F. Dougherty (a1), Lauren D. Quinn (a2), A. Bryan Endres (a3), Thomas B. Voigt (a4) and Jacob N. Barney (a1)...


Miscanthus sinensis is a perennial grass native to Asia, but since its introduction to the United States in the late 19th century, it has become both a major ornamental crop and invasive species. Previous studies of the ecology of M. sinensis in both its introduced and native ranges have suggested that it may be occupying a novel ecological niche in the introduced range. Miscanthus sinensis and its daughter species, Miscanthus × giganteus, are under evaluation as bioenergy crops; therefore, characterization of the ecology and environmental niche of M. sinensis is essential to mitigate the risk of fostering future invasion in the United States. In July 2011, we surveyed 18 naturalized M. sinensis populations spanning the U.S. distribution, covering a 6° latitudinal gradient from North Carolina to Massachusetts. Miscanthus sinensis populations ranged in size from 3 to 181,763 m2 with densities between 0.0012 and 2.2 individuals m−2, and strongly favored highly disturbed and unmanaged habitats such as roadsides and forest edges. Population size and individual plant morphology (i.e., tiller height, basal diameter, and tiller number) were not affected by soil characteristics and nutrient availability, though increased tree canopy cover was associated with reduced population size (P < 0.0001). Plant size and vigor were not significantly affected by low light availability, which supports previous suggestions of shade tolerance of M. sinensis. In summary, M. sinensis can tolerate a broad range of climatic conditions, light availability, and nutrient availability in the eastern United States, suggesting risk of further invasion beyond its current distribution in the United States.


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