The Georgia Forestry Commission is asking for the public's help in stopping a harmful weed from spreading statewide.
Cogongrass is a non-native weed that has taken over millions of acres in the Southeast. It flourishes in numerous soil types and chokes out natural vegetation, which significantly reduces tree and plant regeneration, wildlife habitat, forage and ecological diversity.
Cogongrass is extremely flammable and difficult to eradicate because of its dense root system.
In Georgia, there are 23 state, federal and private groups working together to find and destroy infected sites and educate landowners.
The forestry commission offers free eradication treatments to landowners with cogongrass.
The commission also works with other member states of the Southern Group of State Foresters (Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina) to combat the weed regionally.
Cogongrass was introduced into the United States near Grand Bay, Ala., in 1911 via seed in grass packing materials used in shipping containers from Southeast Asia. It has spread throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Florida and has been found in 28 Georgia counties.
The grass is most easily recognized in the spring flowering and seeding period (March through May in Georgia), when the white fluffy seeds are produced and dispersed.
Cogongrass has sharp, scaly rhizomes and grows in a circular pattern. It also has an off-centered midrib on leaf blades that measure between one and five feet.
"We want the public to report sightings of this dangerous weed so that our teams of professionals can take the necessary measures to bring this threat under control," said Robert Farris, the director of the forestry commission.
The cogongrass threat is considerable because of the weed's aggressive and destructive nature.
A single plant can produce as many as 3,000 seeds, which spread easily in the wind. Individual, underground rhizomes or pieces of rhizomes can sprout new plants as well. Rhizome pieces are easily transported to new areas in contaminated soil, hay, sod or on equipment.
The roots and rhizomes of cogongrass are fire-tolerant, but leaves and flowers of the plant are extremely flammable, creating a fire hazard for rural firefighters and residents.
If you think you have found cogongrass, contact your local forestry commission office and avoid mowing or disking through or near the area to avoid spreading the weed. Pictures and information about cogongrass can be found on the commission Web site at www.gatrees.org.
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