What Is Maidencane Grass – Learn About Maidencane Control In Gardens

What Is Maidencane Grass – Learn About Maidencane Control In Gardens

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Maidencane (Panicum hemitomon) grows wild in much of the southeastern United States. While it is an important wild food for animals, the tenacious rhizomes spread readily and quickly and can pose a threat to native plants. Which one is right for you depends upon the size and severity of the infestation.

What is Maidencane?

If you live in marshy, coastal regions of the southern U.S., you probably recognize maidencane grass. What is maidencane grass? It is a riparian soil stabilizer that forms important root colonies for fish and invertebrates and is widely browsed by deer and other animals. It can also be a noxious weed that pushes out native plants and changes ecosystems. When this happens, it is important to begin maidencane control and prevent loss of habitat.

Maidencane is a perennial grass that grows between 2 and 6 feet in height (.6 to 1.8 m.). Blades are smooth and hairless with overlapping sheaths that angle out from the main leaf. Leaves may be up to 12 inches long (30 cm.) and an inch wide (2.5 cm.), and taper gracefully. Flowers are borne on a narrow spike. Seedheads are delicate and travel on the wind, but many are sterile.

The most common method of maidencane propagation is through rhizomes. Maidencane rhizomes can move two feet (60 cm.) under the soil and have a similar spread. In areas with perfect maidencane growing conditions, the spread of the plant can be rapid and potentially dramatic as the plant eats up areas that should have a more diverse flora.

Most gardeners don’t have maidencane in gardens but it is often part of the waterline in properties near lakes, rivers, fens and other moist sites near the coast. The ideal maidencane growing conditions are warm temperatures, consistent moisture and tolerates almost any light level. Maidencane can withstand any soil pH and can even survive anaerobic situations.

It is an important part of the floating marshes of Louisiana. Maidencane is also fire resistant unless the rhizomes are burned. As long as the rhizomes remain wet and unburned, the plant will spring back easily from wild fires.

Maidencane Control

Controlling maidencane weeds can be tricky. This is because even small pieces of the rhizome left behind will start a new colony. That makes hand pulling unwise. However, over time consistent mowing or tilling can control the plant by reducing its supply of energy.

Herbicides can be effective controls but their use near water can be detrimental to fish and other aquatic animals. Additionally, large stands of maidencane decomposing in the water can reduce oxygen and cause other problems.

To keep wild stands off your property, a physical barrier may be required that is at least 2 feet (60 cm.) under the soil. Another potential method of control is the use of goats, but be wary – they have no rule book and will eat other plants as well.

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Our state is home to hundreds of native aquatic and wetland plants that live in damp to wet soils, and some even more specialized plants that live entirely in, on, or under water submersed plants, emersed plants (including grasses, sedges and rushes), and floating and floating-leaved plants. These plants are technically referred to as aquatic macrophytes.

Section Topics

Aquatic Macrophytes

The littoral zone refers to the part of a waterbody closest to the shore where light reaches all the way to the bottom. (Courtesy of the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources).

Aquatic macrophytes grow in water or in wet areas. Some are rooted in the sediments, while others float on the water's surface and are not rooted to any substrate. Florida has native and non-native (exotic) aquatic macrophytes. Aquatic macrophytes are aquatic plants large enough to be visible to the naked eye. The term is used to distinguish between aquatic plants and algae. The term "aquatic plants" usually refers to aquatic macrophytes, but it can refer to both. (Note: Large visible algae such as Nitella spp. and Chara spp. are included in the category of aquatic macrophytes.)

Aquatic macrophytes are grouped into three general categories:

  • submersed aquatic plants
  • emersed aquatic plants
  • floating and floating-leaved aquatic plants.

Submersed Plants

Native plants provide food, habitat and shelter for native animals like this Florida softshell turtle.

Submersed plants are macrophytes that grow primarily below the water’s surface. Some species are rooted to bottom sediments and others are free-floating. They come in all shapes and sizes and occur in virtually all Florida waterbodies. Environmental factors such as light, water clarity, temperature, pH, nutrient availability and sediment stability affect where submersed plants will grow.

Tape grass (Vallisneria americana) and hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) are rooted in the sediments. Coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) and bladderwort (Utricularia spp.) are free-floating. Some submersed species (tape grass) produce flowers and are pollinated underwater or at the water’s surface. Sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) has branches and leaves that spread across the water just below the surface. Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana) produces flowers that float on the surface. Water milfoils (Myriophyllum spp.) have flower stalks that emerge up to six inches above the water. Some submersed plants have several of these attributes: coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) is a submersed, free-floating plant that produces tiny flowers pollinated underwater.

Professional management of aquatic plants in Florida is extensive because both native and non-native submersed plants can reach nuisance levels. An abundance of submersed aquatic plants can adversely affect recreational boating, swimming, and fishing fish and bird populations commercial navigation and flood control.

Roles of Submersed Plants in Waterbodies

The importance of submersed vegetation and the amount necessary to achieve specific management goals are subjects of ongoing research and debate. Submersed aquatic plants perform several important functions:

  • provide habitat for fish and wildlife
  • affect nutrient cycles
  • increase water clarity
  • stabilize shorelines and sediments
  • increase or decrease dissolved oxygen concentrations, depending on abundance and the availability of light
  • contribute to muck accumulation

See photos and profiles of submersed plants in Florida.

Emersed Plants

Emersed plants are rooted in shallow water with much of the vegetative growth above the water.

Emersed plants are rooted in water-saturated soils or submersed soils near the water’s edge. The leaves and stems grow above the water. During low-water conditions, emersed plants can grow in exposed, damp, sediments. Cattail (Typha spp.), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), and bulrush (Scirpus spp.) are examples of emersed plants. They can grow from the water’s edge to a depth of 1 to 3 meters (3 to 10 feet).

Some emersed plants are large-leaved, with big spikes of flowers: the arrowheads (Sagittaria spp.) and fire flag (Thalia geniculata). Some are small plants, growing inches above the water (Bacopa spp.). Some are viney, rooted in the mud but crawling across the water: water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica). Some are tall and leafy: the native lake hygrophila (Hygrophila costata). Some can fill a large prairie: bur-marigold (Bidens laevis).

Aquatic grasses, sedges, and rushes are also in the emersed-plant category. Among Florida's native giant grasses are sugarcane plume grass (Saccharum giganteum) and giant foxtail (Setaria magna). Shorter grasses, such as maidencane (Panicum hemitomon) and knotweed (Polygonum spp.), grow in shallow marshes and lake margins and are extremely valuable to Florida's fisheries. Sedges include the dominant plant in the Everglades, sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense), and star-rush (Dichromena spp.). Bulrushes include Scirpus spp. and the true rushes of Florida: soft rush (Juncus effusus).

Unfortunately, Florida has many non-native invasive grasses, sedges, and rushes: torpedograss (Panicum repens), paragrass (Urochloa mutica), napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum), and West Indian marsh grass (Hymenachne amplexicaulis).

Emersed plants occur in all Florida waterbodies within a zone from a few feet to hundreds of feet. The zone changes most often in response to changing water levels. When periods of low water are followed by a rapid rise in water level, large sections of emersed plants may be uprooted. Sustained high water can also reduce emersed-plant abundance. In periods of low water, debris from dying emersed plants is a significant factor. Accumulated plant debris can eventually result in the lake becoming shallower, or even transitioning into a swamp or marsh.

Roles of Emersed Plants in Waterbodies

Emersed plants perform many functions in waterbodies:

  • provide habitat for wildlife
  • provide food (seeds and leaves) for waterfowl
  • reduce shoreline erosion
  • shed leaves and other plant debris, adding to the sediments. Uprooted plants can form floating islands or tussocks that can pose significant navigational hazards and block access to portions of the waterbody. Tussocks also provide bird and wildlife habitat.

See photos and profiles of emersed plants in Florida.

Free Floating and Floating Leaved Plants

Floating-leaved plants are typically rooted in the bottom sediments with leaves floating on the water surface, like these native fragrant water lilies.

The “floating” category of aquatic macrophytes includes free-floating and floating-leaved plants. Free-floating plants are not anchored in the sediment they obtain their nutrients from the water. Florida’s native free-floating plants include the world's smallest flowering plant (a duckweed called water meal, Wolffia columbiana) and two larger duckweeds,small duckweed (Lemna valdiviana) and giant duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza). Other native free-floating plants are bladderwort (Utricularia spp.) and coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum).

The free-floating plant, water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), is a non-native invasive plant in Florida and has been called "the worst aquatic weed in the world" by experts. In many Florida waters, it requires constant management, known as maintenance control to maintain low levels and keep waterways passable. Water hyacinth has invaded the waters of many countries from its native Brazil and is profiled here. Salvinia (Salvinia spp.) and water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) are also non-native invasives that form dense mats covering the water surface.

Floating-leaved plants typically are rooted in the sediments and have leaves that float on the water surface. Water lilies (Nymphaea spp.), spatterdock (Nuphar lutea subsp. advena), American lotus (Nelumbo lutea), and water shield (Brasenia schreberi) are examples of floating-leaved plants. They generally grow along the shoreline, lakeward of the emersed plants.

Floating and floating-leaved plants occur in many Florida waterbodies. Rooted floating-leaved plants can grow completely across shallow waterbodies. The roots of floating-leaved plants provide a stable surface for successful fish spawning.

Roles of Floating Plants in Florida Waterbodies

Floating plants and floating-leaved plants perform many functions in waterbodies:

  • provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife
  • reduce shoreline erosion
  • Floating-leaved plant debris contributes to sediment, making a waterbody shallower.
  • If periods of low water are followed by a rapid rise in water level, the roots of dead floating-leaved plants (called rhizomes) can float to the surface, block access, and hinder navigation. In many cases, masses of floating rhizomes (especially from the native plant spatterdock, Nuphar advena) can form floating islands that grow large enough to support trees. Water hyacinth and water lettuce may completely cover the surface of a waterbody and cause major problems for fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, navigation, and flood control.
  • Floating and floating-leaved plants are not generally considered a human health concern, but they provide breeding habitat for mosquitoes.
  • The stems of floating-leaved plants (spatterdock) often contain burrowing insects called bonnet worms that some anglers use for bait.

See photos and profiles of floating and floating-leaved plants in Florida.

How to Control Torpedo Grass in Your Lawn

How do I get rid of torpedo grass in my lawn? -Sherry

They don’t call torpedo grass (Panicum repens) “creeping panic” for nothing, since it’s very difficult to control once it finds its way into your yard! Most weed killers barely slow torpedo grass down, and pulling or digging only makes it grow faster. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to kill torpedo grass without killing your lawn grass, too.

I wish I had an easy solution for you, but when you want to get rid of torpedo grass, you’ve got to pull out the big guns. Here are some ideas to try:


Other Control Measures

  • Solarization: If you are clearing a larger area of lawn, you can solarize it by covering with clear plastic for a month or two during the summer. The sun will bake everything underneath, leaving you with (hopefully) a clean slate in the fall.

Torpedo grass is a marshy plant that tends to invade areas with poor drainage or that have recently been disturbed (such as by a controlled burn, tilling, or grading). You can help discourage infestations of torpedo grass by:

    Improving drainage and soil quality in your yard to keep the existing lawn grass healthy.

Further Information


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After I kill the torpedo grass, I need a super ground cover to salvage the area which is moist and has full sun. what do you recommend? It needs to be very tough.

I’ve been dealing with torpedo grass for over 15 years. I’ve found that using Round Up at triple the recommended strength kills nearly all of it in one spraying (12 fl oz per gallon using 40% concentrate). I spray in early Summer when the plant is active then leave the area bare for one month and follow up where needed. Drastic measures are necessary to completely eradicate this weed. Where it is growing in among shrubbery, I pull the long shoots of grass out of the plants and lay them out along the ground where they can be sprayed without harming the plant. It is a tedious process but better than relandscaping.

We just paid $1,600 to replace our front yard, not knowing the problem will not stop there. I wish I knew. my beautiful husband researched after the grass was changed. Very smart of him. .. wanted to kill him. Now what can we do to slow the growing process?? I’m desperate. I thing we should just put pavers all of our front yard. lol. Really, then no more grass to deal with. Sooooo mad. I’m just sad for my husband for all the stress this caused him. He doesn’t deserve to go through this. He is a hard worker man!!

My lawn service brought Torpedo grass into my yard of beautiful Bermuda. It has taken over 1/3 of the yard and now is invading all the shrubbery and flower beds. It’s a nightmare. I am elderly and can’t get down and pull the grass out of the bushes. How do I get rid of the grass there? Is there another way?

Rather than move, I also tried to separate the torpedo grass from the shrubs it invaded, blade by blade. I then painted the blades, using a small throw-away brush, with concentrated Roundup. I put 4 mil plastic down on top of what I couldn’t reach. This was fairly effective.

Torpedo grass can be controlled in bermuda and zoysia grass with multiple applications of Drive XLR8. (Quinclorac) You would use max rate and also add some spray sticker.

You control torpedo grass by moving! You can NEVER kill it all!

The Types of Bermuda Grass Seed & Germination Rates

Bermudagrass seeds have a tough outer hull that can increase germination time. Hulled seed have this seed coat removed and will germinate quicker than un-hulled seed in a lawn, pasture or hay field. Sometimes hulled and un-hulled seed will be sown together to insure a more successful and surer establishment. Most lawn varieties sold of Bermuda seed are coated and a mixture of hulled and un-hulled seed. The coating is a clay based product applied with a fungicide and dye. The fungicide helps control seed and soil borne pathogens, while the coating material itself allows for more acceptable pricing of expensive seed. Coated seeds are also easier to broadcast when planting. Raw seeds are seeds that have NOT been coated. Other than the lack of a fungicide there is nothing wrong with raw seeds.

*Germination Rates: Bermudagrass seed is available in three forms - hulled, un-hulled and coated. Un-hulled seed is the natural seed form, which will germinate in 7 - 14 days. Hulled seed has had the outer skin (hull) removed for faster germination, 5-10 days to germinate. Coated seed has been pelleted with clay containing nutrients to improve ease of planting and establishment -- this does NOT affect germination rates. In all 3 forms, minimum germination of quality seed is 80% or higher.

*Germination rates will also depend upon environmental factors such as soil temperatures, available moisture, seedbed and soil type. Also keep in mind planting depth of seed which should not exceed 1/4 inch.

Common Bermuda grass is also traditionally available for establishment by seed. Most seeded types of Bermuda Grass are "improvements" of common Bermuda with similar but improved genetic characteristics depending on the breeder's goal for the particular variety.

Resources To Help You Plant Bermuda Grass

  • When to plant Bermuda Grass Seed for best success
  • How to kill Existing Bermuda Grass
  • Establishment Rate Of Bermuda Grass Seed VS Sprigging
  • Planting Bermuda Grass Lawns from seeds - Detailed information
  • Planting Bermuda Grass Pastures From Seed
  • Rivera Bermuda Grass Seed Planting Information (PDF)
  • Overseeding Existing Lawns With Bermuda Grass.

To Improve An Existing Bermuda Grass Lawn

Many times the purpose of planting Bermuda Grass Seed is to improve the existing stand of Bermudagrass. In the case of Bermuda Grass --- this is done to increase a stand density of Bermuda sod and to try and help reduce or eliminate weeds. Some of this can be achieved through cultural maintenance practices, but in cases where the grass is very thin, you may need to re-seed (overseed) those sparse areas.

EASYSEED: The 1-2-3 Steps

First: Decide if you will till the soil (kill the existing plants by plowing up your site!) or just plant within the existing grass. Also decide on the type of Bermuda grass to plant.

I will TILL my site and start Fresh!

I will NOT TILL my site - I want to overseed my existing lawn.


You are not tilling the soil - and are planting seeds within the existing grass & weeds

(1) Mow the area low in spring or fall, remove the excess plant material - Then Sow (broadcast) your Bermudagrass seeds on the area to be planted generally in the spring for best results. Planting in the fall at the same time you use a cover crop such as ryegrass can be used, but the odds of successful establishment are lower. Use un-hulled Bermuda if seeding in the fall. Bermuda seeds require a soil temperature of above 65 degrees to germinate and will not start germinating until this temp coupled with adequate soil moisture is present.. Optimum outside air planting temps should be 75-90 degrees.

(2) Rake the area sowed with a hand rake so that scratch marks in the soil between plants allow some seeds to fall into these valleys and become covered by soil over time (from your rake action and later from rains). Bermudagrass seeds must have a thin soil covering to germinate (1/4 inch ideal) - They DO NOT germinate when thrown on top of the ground. Use the correct rate of seed for Bermudagrass lawns. It is best to rake before and after broadcasting the seed to achieve best soil contact.

(3) Follow your normal water, fertilizing and mowing practices for the area you have planted on a regular basis. That's all! Eventually - (After several months of growing season time has gone bye - usually 60 to 90 days)-you should have an improved, more lush and thick Bermudagrass lawn. - Note: freshly seeded lawns require more frequent watering, usually daily.

Seeding Rate For Overseeding Existing Bermuda Grass Lawns

The seeding rate for overseeding an existing Bermudagrass lawn is -- 1 -2 LBS per 1,000 sq. ft. or 45-90 lbs. per acre.

Planting Bermuda Grass In EROSION AREAS

On erosion areas such as banks more seed will have to be added and can be seeded with rye grasses (only in the cool season) that grow early and fast while the Bermuda takes hold. Rate for new lawns (hulled / coated seeds) is 2 to 3 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.

Visit our www.lawngrasses.com for more about seeding rates for grasses. - Also read the rates listed below.

TILLING - Planting on correctly prepared and tilled soil.

(1) Till the area to be planted. This can be done with either a garden tiller or a tractor harrow/tiller (Or even a shovel if you have a good back!). Once the area is returned to soil, level the ground by raking or dragging something over the surface until it is smooth and level. Now is the time to remove hills and depressions so that you have a nice smooth lawn.

(2) Plant the seeds. You can use a commercial turf grass planter or sow the seeds by hand, or just as easy and much preferred, buy a broadcast seeder (hand held models are available for $8-30) like the one above. Once your seeds are sowed, rake or drag the seeded area, so that as many of the seeds as possible are lightly covered (1/4 inch is ideal covering). Be sure and use the correct rate for seeding Bermuda's.

(3) Water the area you have planted as needed. Apply fertilizer in intervals through the growing season, and practice a regular mowing schedule. Mowing the weeds that will grow in your new lawn area faster than the grass, allows the grass to compete better for scarce nutrients and sunlight. - Mow regular and at the correct height. - Note: freshly seeded lawns require more frequent watering, usually daily.

Seeding Rate For NEW Bermudagrass Lawns

Seeding Rate: Plant 2 to 3 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. (coated seed) or at a rate of 90-135 lbs per Acre.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not exceed 3 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. with the improved bermuda grass varieties.

Visit our www.lawngrasses.com for more about seeding rates for grasses. For pasture seeding the rate is different. Keep in mind that the seeding rate is purposely higher for lawns so that the higher plant density needed for lush lawns is achieved.

A good final finish to planting a Bermudagrass lawn is to roll your planted lawn area with a hand roller. You can rent these implements from rental stores in your area. This compacts the soil around the seed, creating a more favorable environment for Bermudagrass seed germination. The rolling also smoothes the soil providing for a more level lawn.

Establishment of Bermuda Grass Seed

ESTABLISHMENT: Seed or sprig on a well-prepared surface for maximum germination and growth. For pasture use, Bermudagrass can be seeded or sprigged on a well-prepared seedbed with or without legumes or cover crops. Mulching (hay / mulch) will help to conserve moistures, but be careful not to apply too thick of a mulch cover to inhibit germination.

Bermuda Grass Takes Time To Establish From Seed

Keep in mind that establishing a bermudagrass lawn from seed takes time! So be patient and do not expect an "instant lawn".

Your lawn will grow to be beautiful over time! If you can't wait. consider SODDING

Quite regularly I get emails from individuals saying the following:

"I just planted my Bermudagrass seed two weeks ago
and I don't see any grass."

--- First of all, Bermudagrass takes 10-30 days to germinate under ideal situations (adequate warm-moist 70+ degree soil conditions). Some seeds germinate faster and some take months longer. Hulled seed generally germinate faster than un-hulled Bermuda seed. It all depends on the soil and climate for the period after you plant. Bermudagrass loves hot moist soil to germinate. That is when it will germinate the fastest. Keeping adequate moisture throughout the day is also a critical factor. Watering more than once a day may be a requirement of your lawns soil & weather.


--- Secondly, keep in mind that these plants are much like a child. When a child is conceived it generally takes 9 months to emerge. Same with Bermudagrass, except it only takes 2-4 weeks if conditions are right. Then it starts the long process of maturing into an adult Bermuda plant (if conditions aren't right it wont even start!). Once it has germinated and emerged, it is only a baby in the plant world. It will be a very tiny needle looking plant, hiding under and around all the other weeds & plants that may be present in the neighborhood. Bermudas when they first emerge look more like a weed than a grass. Check the picture link above to see what to look for. Seedling color is often brown / purplish.

Bermudagrass.com Growing a beautiful tomorrow!®

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