An invasive species is one that is introduced either by accident or on purpose to an area where it hasn’t been in the past.
At first, the species may go unnoticed. But if a population is allowed to grow, it can dominate native species and cause major health problems for the ecosystem.
Examples of non–native, invasive species include kudzu, bamboo, privet hedge, Japanese beetles, fire ants, pythons in the Florida everglades and just this last fall a new beetle was found in Barrow and surrounding counties that had never been documented in this part of the world.
Invasive plants are introduced species that can thrive in areas beyond their natural range of dispersal. These plants usually adapt to our climate and soils, are very aggressive, and have a high reproductive capacity. Their vigor combined with a lack of natural enemies often leads to explosive populations. Invasive species can decrease your ability to enjoy hunting, fishing, as well as other outdoor activities.
One of the latest plant pests to threaten our state is called Cogon Grass. Cogon Grass has been labeled as “One of the Ten Worst Weeds in the World” since it has spread to more than 70 countries on six continents. This tall growing grass is thought to have entered into the US in the early 1900s in Alabama just like fire ants. You know my dad always said if we were going to give America an enema, Alabama would be the entry point for that too.
Congon grass grows up to 4.5 ft tall and has leaf blades that are roughly ¾ inch wide. The base of the leaf blades have a white fuzzy growth and a white mid-vein on the leaf that is noticeably off - center. The grass has white plume like seed heads that grow 3 – 4.5 ft tall with each spikelet surrounded by white hairs. Cogon grass has a sharply pointed rhizome type root system that is very aggressive. In fact this plant is capable of producing 40 tons of biomass per acre just in the root system which could easily out compete most native grasses or common pasture grasses like fescue or bermuda.
This plant has been found in Barrow County and can easily spread by seed or by moving root pieces with dirt. During the spring season when you are working out in the yard or on the back forty be on the look out for cogon grass. Please call your local Extension Office or Georgia Forestry Commission Office if you think you have this plant on your property. You can visit the following website to learn more about the invasive species: http://www.gainvasives.org/
Britt West is the extension agent for Barrow County. You can reach him at email@example.com.