Photo by Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service, Bugwood.org
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Stone, Katharine R. 2010. Neyraudia reynaudiana. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
NRCS PLANT CODE :
The scientific name of silk reed (Kart) is Neyraudia reynaudiana (Kunth) Keng ex A.S. Hitchc. (Poaceae) [14,40].
Silk reed is native to southeastern Asia. In the early 1920s silk reed was planted at the USDA Plant Introduction Station in Coconut Grove, Florida, and it subsequently escaped from there . As of this writing (2010) the distribution of silk reed in North America is limited to a few counties in Florida. Plants Database provides a distributional map of silk reed.
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Silk reed is most common in pine rockland plant communities in southern Florida [19,25,37]. Pine rocklands are characterized by an open-canopy forest of South Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa) with a patchy understory of tropical and temperate shrubs and palms, and variable ground cover of grasses and herbs. Typical canopy trees include South Florida slash pine, saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens), cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto), and Florida silver palm (Coccothrinax argentata). Scattered outcrops of weathered oolitic limestone are common in this plant community .
On North Key Largo, Florida, silk reed occurs in West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks. It has established mostly in disturbed and ruderal areas (e.g., roadsides), but has also spread into undisturbed hammocks . Silk reed is also common on disturbed rocky outcrops in the Big Cypress Natural Preserve, Florida. The area is dominated by bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and pond cypress (T. ascendens) wetlands, but also contains hydric South Florida slash pine flatwoods and treeless wet prairies and marshes . Silk reed occurred both before and after Hurricane Andrew (1992) on Chicken Key, Florida, an island dominated by red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) .
In its native range, silk reed occurs in bogs, open savannas, upland cliffs, and along road edges .
Botanical description: This description
covers characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology and is not meant
for identification. References to aid in the identification of silk reed include the
Silk reed is a tall, perennial, large-plumed grass  that grows in dense clumps from a woody rhizome [20,39]. Stems and flowering stalks may reach a height of 3 to 15 feet (1-5 m) depending on soil and moisture conditions. Each clump produces an average of 40 stalks with 12 to 20 terminal panicles that may be up to 3 feet (1 m) long, each bearing hundreds of flowers . It is not clear how deep silk reed roots penetrate in the soil, though one source reports that roots are "deep" .
Photo by Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service, Bugwood.org
In Florida, silk reed may flower throughout the year [20,25].
Silk reed reproduces vegetatively via rhizomes and by seed [16,26].
Vegetative regeneration: A weed identification guide  and a flora  report that silk reed has a short, woody rhizome, while one source describes rhizomes as "extensive and robust" . New clumps of silk reed may emerge from rhizomes embedded in sand, soil, or rubble . Silk reed may sprout from rhizomes following frost , fire [25,26], and mechanical or chemical treatments .
Pollination and breeding system: No information is available on this topic.
Seed production: A single silk reed plant may produce hundreds of thousands of seeds in a growing season . However, one source reports that many of the seeds are not viable because most plants are sterile (Noltie 1999 cited in ).
Seed dispersal: Silk reed seeds are dispersed by wind [20,26]. Seeds and rhizomes may also be spread when limestone rock is removed from quarries with established silk reed populations .
Seed banking: In Florida, one manager observed supposedly extirpated populations of silk reed sprout after 2 years, though it was unclear whether emerging plants sprouted from rhizomes or from the soil seed bank (Gann-Matzen personal observation cited in ).
Germination: No information is available on this topic.
Seedling establishment and plant growth: Descriptions of silk reed establishing from seed were lacking in the available literature as of this writing (2010). One source reports that silk reed is most likely to establish in disturbed areas and establishes best in dry, disturbed areas . Once established, silk reed is able to spread to marginally disturbed and undisturbed habitats [10,16,26].
A weed identification guide suggests silk reed tolerates a wide range of soil, light, and water regimes . Several sources report that it prefers open, sunny, dry sites with some disturbance [10,19,20]. In its native range, silk reed is found in bogs and disturbed sites, often growing on infertile soils . In Florida, silk reed establishes in disturbed areas [10,20,25,40] including the edges of roadways, fields, and forests , vacant lots , and limestone spoil piles .
Soils: As of this writing (2010) it is not clear what soil characteristics silk reed prefers. One manager described silk reed as a colonizer of sandy soils . Soils of the pine rocklands where silk reed is invasive are usually moderately well drained, with limestone bedrock at or very near the surface. Soils generally consist of small accumulations of sand, marl, and organic material in depressions and crevices in the rock surface .
Silk reed is tolerant of extreme soil conditions. In Hong Kong, it was a dominant of the few plants established on the peripheries of treatment lagoons 2 years after the deposition of a coal ash-seawater slurry. Substrate conditions were alkaline (pH 8.4), saline (2.18 dS/m), contained high levels of heavy metals, and surface temperatures reached 113 °F (45 °C) in summer . One source suggests that silk reed may occur in areas with brackish water in Florida .
Elevation: In its native range, silk reed grows from 0 to 6,500 feet (0-1,900 m) .
Climate: Silk reed generally occurs in a warm, subtropical climate in its native range, similar to the climate where it occurs in North America. Its ability to survive at high elevations (6,500 feet (1,900 m)) in its native range suggests that it may possess some level of cold tolerance, potentially facilitating its spread farther north in North America . Guala  observed that a transplanted silk reed rhizome fragment sprouted, grew rapidly, and set fruit after exposure to a series of light spring frosts followed by a hard frost. After a severe freeze the following December, the aboveground vegetation died but the plant sprouted "vigorously" within 2 months .
In Florida, silk reed establishes in early succession, but may spread into and persist in some later successional plant communities [10,16,26]. On North Key Largo, silk reed established in disturbed and ruderal areas (e.g., roadsides) and spread into undisturbed tropical hardwood hammocks . However, silk reed did not spread into undisturbed areas in the Big Cypress Natural Preserve. After establishing on stone outcrops in areas where limestone had been dredged for canals, its spread was limited to other disturbed areas .
One source reports that silk reed populations increased in the pine rocklands of Miami-Dade County, Florida, following Hurricane Andrew in 1992 . Other disturbances reported to facilitate silk reed establishment include bulldozing  and fire [10,25,26]. See Plant response to fire for more information.
Silk reed has the potential to alter successional pathways in plant communities where it establishes. Its growth form physically blocks light to other plants  and it produces of a heavy mat of leaf litter  that may prevent the establishment of other plants (e.g., see [2,24]). Silk reed may also alter fire regimes where it establishes. See Impacts and Fuels and fire regimes for more information on this topic.
Fire adaptations and plant response to fire:
Fire adaptations: Silk reed exhibits several characteristics that make it well-adapted to surviving fire and/or establishing after fire. Silk reed has rhizomes that survive and sprout following fire . It establishes best on open, sunny, dry sites with some disturbance [10,19,20], conditions that may exist following fire. Silk reed may flower at any time of year [20,25], producing abundant seeds  that are wind-dispersed [20,26], traits that may facilitate establishment in burned areas. However, as of this writing (2010) there are no descriptions in the available literature of silk reed establishing by seed, and one source suggests that silk reed seeds are largely sterile (Noltie 1999 cited in ).
Plant response to fire: Rasha's M.S. thesis  provides the most detailed information available regarding silk reed's response to fire. However, it must be noted that this study investigated silk reed's response to fire in only one plant community (pine rocklands) for only 1 year. It is possible that silk reed's response to fire varies by plant community or over longer time periods.
At the time of Rasha's study (1995), silk reed occurred in approximately 67 acres (27 ha) of a 200-acre (81-ha) pine rockland park in southern Miami-Dade County, Florida. Approximately 22 acres (9 ha) of the park were covered in dense stands of silk reed. Manager observations suggested that silk reed established and spread in burned areas in the park following arson fires. It also increased in abundance after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, 3 years prior to this study. Silk reed establishment and spread following both fire and hurricane disturbance was attributed to vegetative spread via rhizomes .
Managers conducted a prescribed fire in February of 1995 over a 300 × 1,000 foot (100 × 300 m) treatment area. Prior to the fire, the area was characterized as having a heavy layer of duff and fine fuels, and a sparse understory of South Florida slash pine seedlings and some nonnative species. Silk reed dominated the mid-story, though a few South Florida slash pine saplings and nonnative hardwood species were present. The treatment area lacked an overstory tree canopy. The author sampled pre- and postfire conditions in areas with 2 levels of silk reed establishment: 1) dense silk reed, or >90% silk reed cover, disturbed soil, and few or no native pine rockland understory species, and 2) sparse silk reed, or 30% to 90% silk reed cover with minimal soil disturbance and some native pine rockland understory species. Both burned and unburned control areas were sampled .
The fire prescription included a slow backing fire set to spread against the prevailing wind. Flame lengths up to 5.2 feet (1.6 m) were observed. Weather conditions included a wind speed of 6 miles/hr (10 km/hr), temperatures of 75 °F to 77 °F (24 °C-25 °C), and relative humidity of 42%. Fire severity varied throughout the treatment area due to variability in fine fuel loading. The fire consumed the majority of leaf litter, reducing litter depth from 3 inches (8 cm) to 1 inch (3.5 cm) in most areas, though litter was completely consumed in some areas. Observers reported that the areas with dense silk reed cover burned "hotter" than areas with sparse silk reed cover .
Immediately following the fire, the majority of silk reed stems appeared to be dead, but the upper leaves and inflorescences were not consumed by the fire and remained largely intact. Within 2 weeks of the fire, more than 90% of the silk reed stems were dried and dead. The author suggested that root systems were likely not killed by fire, though they were not examined. Sprouts emerged from rhizomes and were up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall within 2 weeks of the fire. One month after the fire, silk reed stem density was 30% higher than prefire density in both dense and sparse silk reed study areas. Four to 6 months after sprouting, silk reed plants flowered. Within a year of the fire, stems approached their mature height, averaging approximately 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. One year after the fire, the author observed more silk reed stems in the burned area compared to both the same sites prior to fire and compared to unburned areas, though these results were not statistically significant. The author attributed rapid and dense silk reed growth in burned areas to a documented increase in available soil nutrients (e.g., phosphorus, calcium, and sulfate) following fire .
The results of this study suggest that silk reed is well-adapted to surviving fire and may increase following fire, at least temporarily. The author concluded that fire is not an appropriate tool for controlling silk reed .
FUELS AND FIRE REGIMES:
Fuels: Silk reed has the potential to alter the amount and type of fuels in plant communities where it occurs. It establishes in dense, tall clumps  and produces a heavy mat of leaf litter from shed stems and inflorescences . In South Florida slash pine savannas, silk reed grew 3 to 7 feet (1-2 m) above surrounding vegetation. Total plant biomass in areas dominated by silk reed was more than 4 times the biomass of areas lacking silk reed (P=0.01). Litter depth was almost double in areas with silk reed compared to areas without it (P=0.01) .
Silk reed also alters the type of fuels available. Silk reed litter facilitates fire spread and movement at the ground's surface. Inflorescences may act as a ladder fuel, allowing fire to spread into tree canopies; one manager reports silk reed ignition during wildfire creating flames >30 feet (9 m) high, threatening nearby tree canopies. Wind may transport flaming silk reed inflorescences, increasing the potential for fire spread .
The alteration in quantity and type of fuels in areas with silk reed has led to concern that silk reed establishment leads to uncharacteristically severe fires in pine rocklands [22,26].
Fire regimes: Though it is not known what fire regime silk reed evolved in, it appears to be favored by frequent fire [22,25,26].
Fire exclusion and silk reed establishment have both altered the typical fire regime of pine rocklands. Fire is integral to maintaining pine rocklands; historically, low-severity fires occurred every 3 to 10 years , consuming litter and understory vegetation. Fire exclusion has led to the lengthening of fire-return intervals, facilitating hardwood species establishment and litter accumulation. In some areas, pine rocklands are replaced by a tropical hammock plant community within 2 to 3 decades of fire exclusion . In pine rocklands where silk reed establishes, the alteration of fuel characteristics by silk reed has promoted an increase in the frequency and intensity of fires, leading to abnormally high South Florida slash pine mortality . Managers observed 75% mortality of mid-canopy South Florida slash pine following a mixed-severity prescribed fire in a park with dense stands of silk reed . There is also concern that silk reed establishment may alter fire-return intervals and plant community composition in Florida scrub plant communities, ecosystems with longer fire-return intervals than pine rocklands . See the Fire Regime Table for more information on fire regimes of vegetation communities in which silk reed may occur.
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Potential for postfire establishment and spread: Where it occurs in Florida, silk reed has a high likelihood of establishing after fire. It reportedly established in one park in Miami-Dade County following arson fires and sprouted and grew at high densities in the same park following prescribed fire .
Preventing postfire establishment and spread: Because fire appears to favor silk reed establishment [22,25,26], it is suggested that managers monitor burned areas within or adjacent to known silk reed populations for several years after fire. Preventing invasive plants from establishing in weed-free burned areas is the most effective and least costly management method. This may be accomplished through early detection and eradication, careful monitoring and follow-up, and limiting dispersal of invasive plant propagules into burned areas. General recommendations for preventing postfire establishment and spread of invasive plants include:
For more detailed information on these topics see the following publications:
Use of prescribed fire as a control agent: Due to the flammability of silk reed vegetation, a special permit may be required in Florida to burn in areas with silk reed . One manager does not recommend fire to control silk reed and instead suggests integrated management techniques that combine mechanical, chemical, and cultural methods [25,26]. If prescribed fire is used, it is recommended that the fire be severe enough to consume all aboveground vegetation, eliminating the cost of mechanical vegetation removal. Prescribed fire must be quickly followed by chemical or mechanical control of emerging sprouts ; silk reed sprouts were up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall within 2 weeks of prescribed fire and flowered within 4 to 6 months of sprouting . When silk reed is the first plant to sprout following fire, herbicides can be applied with less concern for non-target plant mortality .
Altered fuel characteristics: Silk reed has the potential to alter the amount and type of fuels in plant communities where it occurs, facilitating a departure from historical fire regimes and associated fire intensities and/or severities. Observers of a prescribed fire in the pine rocklands of Florida reported that areas with dense silk reed cover burned "hotter" than areas with sparse silk reed cover . In pine rockland plant communities, the altered fuel characteristics of areas with silk reed may promote high South Florida slash pine mortality [22,25]. See Fuels and Fire Regimes for more information on this topic.
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
Silk reed is listed as a noxious weed in Florida. Information on state-level noxious weed status of plants in the United States is available at Plants Database.
IMPORTANCE TO WILDLIFE AND LIVESTOCK:
As of this writing (2010) no information is available regarding the importance of silk reed to wildlife and livestock in North America.
Palatability and/or nutritional value: Silk reed is reported as poisonous to buffalo in Bhutan .
Cover value: No information is available on this topic.
One manager reports that silk reed has no known economic value , though it was evaluated and deemed suitable for pulping and paper making in India . It may have been originally planted at a USDA test garden in Florida to evaluate its potential as an ornamental plant .
IMPACTS AND CONTROL:
Photo by Tony Pernas, USDI National Park Service, Bugwood.org
Silk reed establishment is considered a major threat to pine rockland plant communities in southern Florida. Pine rocklands contain more than 1,000 indigenous plant species, 30 of which are endemic . By 1993, silk reed was established in nearly 75% of Dade County pine rocklands outside of Everglades National Park . In 1999, managers observed several square miles of pine rocklands in Miami-Dade County where the native shrub and herbaceous layer was replaced by silk reed . In one South Florida slash pine savanna, native plant biomass was significantly lower in areas with silk reed compared to areas without it (P<0.01), which the authors attributed to the impacts of both silk reed growth and fire exclusion . High mortality of South Florida slash pine, the dominant canopy tree of pine rocklands, has been linked to fires fueled by silk reed [22,25].
Silk reed occurs in areas of the pine rocklands that contain the federally endangered crenulate leadplant (Amorpha herbacea var. crenulata). Field experiments demonstrated that crenulate leadplant establishment and persistence were inhibited by litter accumulation >1 inch (3 cm); litter accumulation smothered adult crenulate leadplants, limited pollinator habitat which reduced crenulate leadplant reproduction, and inhibited crenulate leadplant seedling establishment. The authors did not explicitly link the litter of silk reed to the demise of crenulate leadplant, but did link the exclusion of fire in the area with accumulations of litter from plants like silk reed .
Silk reed also occurs in the "globally imperiled" West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks on North Key Largo, Florida. Though silk reed's impacts on this plant community have not been documented in the literature as of 2010, it reportedly spreads from disturbed areas into undisturbed hammocks .
Control: Control of silk reed requires a long-term commitment to treatment and monitoring  and often the use of integrated management techniques [10,25,26,37]. One manager observed supposedly extirpated populations of silk reed sprout after 2 years, though it was unclear whether emerging plants sprouted from rhizomes or from the soil seed bank (Gann-Matzen personal observation cited in ). Control efforts that involve soil disturbance (e.g., bulldozing) may favor silk reed .
In all cases where invasive species are targeted for control, no matter what method is employed, the potential for other invasive species to fill their void must be considered . Control of biotic invasions is most effective when it employs a long-term, ecosystem-wide strategy rather than a tactical approach focused on battling individual invaders .
Fire: For information on the use of prescribed fire to control silk reed, see Fire Management Considerations.
Prevention: As of this writing (2010) there was little information available about preventing the establishment of silk reed. Based on silk reed's establishment patterns, it is likely that limiting disturbance in areas close to known silk reed populations would limit silk reed spread, though it has been documented spreading vegetatively from disturbed into undisturbed areas [10,16,26].
It is commonly argued that the most cost-efficient and effective method of managing invasive species is to prevent their establishment and spread by maintaining "healthy" natural communities [21,29] (e.g., avoid road building in wildlands ) and by monitoring several times each year . Managing to maintain the integrity of the native plant community and mitigate the factors enhancing ecosystem invasibility is likely to be more effective than managing solely to control the invader .
Weed prevention and control can be incorporated into many types of management plans, including those for logging and site preparation, grazing allotments, recreation management, research projects, road building and maintenance, and fire management . See the Guide to noxious weed prevention practices  for specific guidelines in preventing the spread of weed seeds and propagules under different management conditions.
Cultural control: A comprehensive fact sheet suggests a number of native plants as alternatives to silk reed, including eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and hairawn muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). In pine rocklands, suitable replacements include Florida little bluestem (Schizachyrium rhizomatum), wire bluestem (Andropogon gracilis), pineland threeawn (Aristica stricta), and Florida gamagrass (Tripsacum floridanum). In coastal uplands or disturbed sites, an appropriate alternative plant is pinewoods fingergrass (Eustachys petraea) .
Physical or mechanical control: Physical or mechanical control of silk reed is difficult because it has deep roots and their removal causes extensive soil disturbance, which favors additional silk reed establishment . One source reports that plants can be removed by hand, but cutting or mowing alone is not effective . Some sources suggest first cutting silk reed stems and then applying herbicide to sprouts [10,25,37].
Biological control: As of this writing (2010) no biological control agent has been identified to control silk reed. Biological control of invasive species has a long history that indicates many factors must be considered before using biological controls. Refer to these sources: [35,38] and the Weed control methods handbook  for background information and important considerations for developing and implementing biological control programs.
Chemical control: Herbicide application may effectively control silk reed, particularly in conjunction with cutting. Repeated application of herbicides for several years may be necessary because silk reed sprouts from rhizomes following top-kill . For recommendations on chemical control of silk reed, see the following sources: [15,16,19,26].
Herbicides are effective in gaining initial control of a new invasion or a severe infestation, but they are rarely a complete or long-term solution to weed management . See the Weed control methods handbook  for considerations on the use of herbicides in natural areas and detailed information on specific chemicals.
Integrated management: Management strategies that combine cutting and herbicide are recommended for controlling silk reed [10,25,26,37]. In areas where silk reed is integrated with desirable native vegetation, individual plants can be cut at the base and remaining portions sprayed with herbicide. If sprouting occurs, additional herbicide applications may be needed . Cutting and herbicide treatments should be followed by planting of native grasses and herbaceous plants . For examples of integrated management strategies to control silk reed, see: .
|Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which silk reed may occur. This information is taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models , which were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion. This table summarizes fire regime characteristics for each plant community listed. The PDF file linked from each plant community name describes the model and synthesizes the knowledge available on vegetation composition, structure, and dynamics in that community. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Pond cypress savanna||Replacement||17%||120|
|Surface or low||57%||35|
|Surface or low||99%||3||1||5|
|South Florida slash pine flatwoods||Replacement||6%||50||50||90|
|Surface or low||94%||3||1||6|
Replacement: Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed: Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low: Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [11,17].
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