There is a relatively new invasive plant gaining a foothold in Elmore County. Its
name is cogongrass and it is widely considered the worst weed in the world. The
grass is an extremely aggressive invader. It spreads by windblown seed that can
travel over 15 miles and by rhizomes (underground stems similar to roots). The
rhizomes have sharp tips that can kill other plants and release chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants. In open settings such as pastures, it can quickly overtake a site rendering it useless for wildlife and livestock. The plant is low in nutrition and has serrated edges that cut the tongues of grazing animals. It is also extremely combustible and promotes wildfire. It burns hotter than other plants and will kill trees including our most fire-resistant tree, longleaf pine. It can turn forests into almost pure stands of cogongrass.
The good news is that herbicide treatments can eradicate it, but early detection is
critical. Small infestations can be controlled fairly easily. However, if left untreated for a long time, the cost of control increases greatly. The best time to spot cogongrass is during its blooming period, March-June, because it blooms earlier than our native grasses and contrasts well with surrounding vegetation. The blooms occur on spikes and the seeds are fluffy like dandelion seeds. The central veins of its leaves are off-center, especially near the base. If you spot an infestation, do not mow or disk in the area as this can aid in dispersing seeds and rhizomes. Contact the Forestry Commission office (334-567-5486) or the County Extension office for aid in identification and control recommendations.