Environmental Volunteers Fight Back Against Invasive Stiltgrass with DEAL

By Phoebe Chen

3 mins read

On Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, a few members of the Drew Environmental Action League (DEAL) gathered for an invasive species removal. The focus was placed on a rapidly spreading plant called stiltgrass. At 5:30 p.m., the students met just outside of the university’s Ehinger Center eatery where the few patches of earth known as the Fern Plots were heavily infested with the invading grass.

Photos courtesy of Phoebe Chen

Hailei Clark (’23), the President of DEAL, informed the group of a way to identify the plant. “It’s as if bamboo was grass,” Clark said, describing the thousands of stiff, thin green straws that reach at most 10 inches high. These long pointed leaves strangle the native vegetation in the Fern Plots and the Drew Forest. 

The plants have the ability to thrive throughout most of the Eastern U.S. because they are able to live without the threat of a natural predator. “The deer don’t like to eat them,” Clark said, sharing that there was not much to keep the stiltgrass from growing in population besides human maintenance.

When a student asked where the plant is native, Clark answered, “It came from Japan and was used as packaging material years and years and years ago.” It has remained an unwelcome guest to the East Coast’s ecosystems ever since.

Students managed to rip out armfuls of the weed and created large piles of the invasive vegetation on the path beside the plots. After a student noticed the seeds springing out of the tumbleweed of stiltgrass in her arms, she noted that this rocket-like method must be the way the plant is able to flare out so quickly. Within one hour, students were able to form about ten large piles of the evicted weeds, which they tightly packed into black garbage bags. This way, the seeds were contained, and the plant would not further migrate when brought to a landfill.

The Drew Environmental Action League has a variety of volunteer opportunities, such as the annual Fern Fest in the spring and future invasive species removals. This is definitely not the last of the invasive stiltgrass on campus, nor is it the last time students can work on countering this invasion. For more information, or to get involved, email hclark@drew.edu

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