Invasive grass very difficult to control

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Washington Parish County Agent Henry Harrison said cogongrass seems to have a mind of its own and destroys anything and everything with which it comes in contact.

Cogongrass came from Southeast Asia and was introduced into Florida and southern parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia in the early 1900s. It’s been reported cogongrass was used for forage for cattle. Cows would not eat it, however, because the glass-like texture cut the cattle’s tongues.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reports cogongrass is an invasive exotic species that grows in very dense mats and rapidly displaces native vegetation, eventually converting acres of once-productive habitat to an ecological desert, devoid of almost any desirable plants. When this happens, the wildlife species that depend on the native vegetation are displaced and must seek other areas to live, feed and reproduce.

The LDWF report said cogongrass spreads by underground shoots called rhizomes and by seeds. The dense stands of trees are very flammable and burn with an intense heat that can damage or kill standing timber. Once cogongrass is burned, it comes back stronger than ever.

“Cogongrass is one of the 10 worst ones in the country. It’s a hard species of grass to control,” Harrison said. “Cogongrass is one of those which creates issues, not just n the forest areas, but in pasture lands and crop lands. Because of its extensive root system, it’s a monster.”

Cogongrass was first discovered in Louisiana in Washington Parish. It has spread to most of the southeastern parishes and some western and central parishes. Cogongrass can also be found nearby in Walthall County, Miss.

“You want to try and control cogongrass when it’s tender and lush in the spine before it blooms,” Harrison said. “Once it blooms, you’re behind the 8-ball because it has toughened.”

Harrison said the best herbicides to battle cogongrass are a combination of Arsenal AC and Roundup.

According to the LDWF, cogongrass can be identified by its long and slender leaves that run up to 6 feet long and an inch wide. Leaves are a light yellowish-green and the midrib is offset to one side. It flowers in March to mid-June and produces cylindrical fluffy white flower heads 2 to 8 inches long.

Harrison said travelers make the mistake of finding cogongrass by the side of the road and take a cutting home not knowing what it is.

“It’s a weed that is out of its place,” Harrison said. “You don’t want it.”

Some of the more common areas where cogongrass grows are road medians, ditches, pine tree plantations and pastures and fields that have not been plowed.