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Extension > Source - Fall 2007 > Fall is the best time to manage reed canary grass

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Fall is the best time to manage reed canary grass

Growing Native: Protecting Minnesota shorelands from invasion

That large stand of grass growing in your nearest wetlands, streams or lakeshores, may be reed canary grass, an invasive, non-native plant.

Reed canary grass, a rapidly spreading perennial grass with 2- to 8-foot-tall stems, reproduces by seed. Once established, it spreads via vigorous, creeping underground stems called rhizomes, outcompeting most native grasses and flowers.

To protect water environments, Extension's shoreland specialists have been teaching Minnesotans how to manage this invasive grass in order to maintain and restore native shoreland plant communities.

"While the foliage of native plants provides food and shelter for fish and other wildlife, and traps sediment before it enters the water, reed canary grass has relatively shallow roots and does not support the same diversity of wildlife," explains Extension educator Mary Blickenderfer. "The deep and extensive root systems of native plants also protect the shoreline from wave and ice erosion and absorb nutrient-rich runoff."

The first step in any shoreline restoration, then, is to control this aggressive grass, which usually involves multiple applications of a glyphosate herbicide, most effective in early fall. Once the reed canary grass has been controlled, native vegetation can be established.

Learn more about aquatic invasive species and how to identify most families of plants found in Minnesota lakes and rivers in a new publication from Extension, A Field Guide to Identification of Minnesota Aquatic Plants. Purchase this useful, laminated guide online at (item 08242) for $20, plus shipping.

For more information on Extension's Shoreland Education Program, see

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