Nodding behavior observed in Japanese stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum, seedlings from time-lapse observations.
Invasive species are the second main cause of biodiversity loss because of their exceptional ability to supplant native species by creating major upheavals in ecosystems. Inexpensive and prevalent time-lapse photography provides an exciting opportunity to better understand the aggressive behavior of invasive species including how they invade and conquer new territory. One of the most pervasive invasive species in the Eastern United States is Japanese stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Campus, which originated from Southeast Asia. Previous research has examined the conditions that enable Japanese stiltgrass to become invasive, but nothing is known regarding root and shoot behavior. Here time-lapse was used to examine Japanese stiltgrass seedlings, early in their development, as a first step to observe its behavior. Our results demonstrate that Japanese stiltgrass shoots appear to drop or collapse and then resurrect back to an upright stature - sometimes the same plant exhibits this behavior multiple times. We have shown, in addition, that emergent stilt root growth rate increases with increased root length. This and similar kinds of analyses may provide insight into how Japanese stiltgrass thrives aggressively in a non-native environment with the goal of developing better methods of controlling this noxious weed.