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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

August 2000

Tricks to identify wild grasses

Grasses are often difficult to identify. By paying attention to a few details, you can find the reed canary grass in your area. Refer to a credible guidebook to grasses or consult an expert for confirmation, especially before beginning control measures.
Reed canary grass. © Robert Queen
Reed canary grass has a two- to six-foot stalk with wide, flat blades. The flowering body is branched and dense, and blooms from May to August. Examine the stem at the base of each blade. Look for a long white membrane called a ligule between the stem and leaf blade and contining up the stem to the point where the blade folds away. The ligule of reed canary grass is notably long and transparent. Rhizomes (roots) of the plant are pink, and hook towards the surface within four to six inches of the parent, forming a thick interwoven mat. Also look for distinguishing features of the plant with a hand lens. Individual spikelet (seed) scales are hairless, and inside the scales, each spikelet bears two distinct tufts of hair.

Native bluejoint (Calamagrostis canadensis) lacks a long transparent ligule and has a continuous circle of hairs around each spikelet instead of two tufts. Non-native orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) lacks a long transparent ligule and has hairs on its spikelet scales.

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Options for treatment

Condensed from guidelines compiled by the Reed Canary Grass Task Force. For more information contact the Wisconsin Reed Canary Grass Task Force c/o Joanne Kline, WDNR, P.O. Box 12436 Milwaukee, WI 53212, or call (414) 263-8756.

Herbaceous Wetland Community
Controlled Burn
Cut or Mow
Planting Native Species
Reed canary grass in small patches; diverse, high-quality vegetation. Glyphosphate

(6 percent) treatment early spring, fall. Remove seed and spot treat in summer.

Dalapon and Amitrol effective only on seedlings to three weeks.
Not recommended for RCG management alone. Manually cut RCG three times a season (occasional clipping stimulates growth). Not needed for small patches of RCG (less than a meter in size).
RCG patches common but still mostly native vegetation. Late spring or early to mid-fall. Repeat yearly. Low cost alternative to herbicide. Requires more time. Consider seeded cover crop or native pioneer species where patches are extensive. Bare spots from treatment at risk to RCG.
RCG dominant with few native species, no rare species. Glyphosphate

(1.5 percent) direct spray without dripping.
Requires repeated treatments. May release seeds. Remove mulch cut material. Needed where native seed bank is sparse. Recommended: cordgrass (Spartina pectinata), sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus), and cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum).
RCG monoculture with or without native seed bank. Wick or spray 6 percent glyphosphate. Burn three weeks later to kill resprouts and seedlings.

Possible reapplications.
Fall burning effective, may require herbicide prior to burning. Without seed bank use in combination with herbicide. Match seed mix to plant community suggested by native seed bank.

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