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Slender False Brome

seed heads and stalks of slender false brome
Long, drooping flowers/seed heads with short or no stalk. Stems
grow far above the leaves. Mature flowers/seeds can be seen
through October. Photo: Oregon False Brome Working Group

Slender false brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) is an invasive grass, and one of New York's lesser known invasive species. This species often goes undetected because there are many other grasses that appear similar and it can be difficult to identify. This attractive perennial grass forms distinctive bunches of arching, lime-green leaves. Leaf color is bright green throughout the growing season and into the late fall. Slender false brome can tolerate a wide range of habitats and can crowd out native species; it is especially competitive in shady or drought stricken areas. Learn how to identify this plant in an identification video, courtesy of the New York Natural Heritage Program.

Why is it a problem?

leaf of slender false brome
Fine hairs along leaf (above) and stem. Photo:
Oregon False Brome Working Group

Slender false brome can outcompete existing vegetation including threatened and endangered species. It can even prevent tree seedling establishment. it can harm populations of mammals, insects, lizards and snakes and even song birds by altering food sources. This plant is self-fertilizing, can produce hundreds of seeds per plant and can tolerate a wide range of habitats. It is especially competitive in shady or drought stricken areas. Brachypodium has exhibited explosive spread and aggressive population expansion in portions of New York, threatening biodiversity in botanically unique areas such as the Bergen Swamp. The grass is also found in high use areas such as along trails in Taughannock Falls State Park, making containment difficult. See the NYS Invasiveness Ranking Form (PDF, 229 KB) for more information.

Where is it found?

slender false brome across forest floor
Photo: Oregon False Brome Working Group

As of December 2016, slender false brome has been located in just a few locations in New York, the Bergen Swamp in Genesee County, several areas near Ithaca in Tompkins County, a site in Onondaga County, and one site in Dutchess County near Wappingers Falls (see iMap Invasive Species Database (leaves DEC website).) However, because this plant is so non-distinct it has likely been undetected or misidentified in Western and Central New York for years. It thrives in many terrestrial and semi-wet environments including the shade of forest floors, pastures, and fields at various elevations.

Slender false brome has spread rapidly throughout portions of western Oregon and the Pacific Northwest (leaves DEC website). It is important to know if you may be in an area with slender false brome, but it is also good practice to brush off boots and clothing before leaving any trail or natural area.

How does it spread?

slender false brome along a trail
Brachypodium infestation along a trail in Tompkins County, NY.
Photo: Audrey Bowe

The seeds of slender false brome can be spread easily by attaching to shoes, clothing, and vehicles. In addition, mud and soil can contain seeds and can be transported in mud trapped in boot or bike tread. Wildlife, especially birds and small mammals can move seeds. Seeds are often dispersed long distances by logging activities, roadside maintenance, and recreational activities. If seeds are transported to a different area, a new infestation could occur.

The NYS Brachypodium Working Group

In 2016, New York formed the Brachypodium Working Group to bring together Partnerships for Invasive Species Management (PRISM) leaders, state agencies, academics, conservation groups, and botanists to collaborate on ideas regarding management approaches, research needs, and control options and on how to increase awareness of the species. There are no approved biocontrol agents available, so delineating populations, implementing effective management activities and understanding the risks of spread are essential. Luckily some infestations in New York are small enough to contain with proper management, while others will focus on preventing further spread.

What can you do?

Prevention is always the best option. Since this species is spread by seed, cleaning boots, equipment, and machinery can help prevent further establishment. Small patches of slender brome can be dug up in April and Map, taking extra care to remove the whole root system. Mowing in June will prevent the plant from re-sprouting the next year. For larger infestations, non-selective or grass specific herbicides can be effective in some environments. In New York, slender false brome is a prohibited invasive species under regulation 6 NYCRR Part 575, which means it cannot be bought, sold or introduced into the wild.


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