I woke up this morning,

I looked out at my fields.

What I saw out there,

It made me want to squeal.

Them little white flowers,

They was growin’ everywhere.

It’s enough to make a man

Pull out all his hair.

I got the cogongrass blues.

What am I gonna do?

I got the cogongrass blues…

 

It may not make the Hit Parade, but “The Cogongrass Blues,” a ditty by The Blues Rangers band, mirrors the woes of landowners in southern states who’ve seen their pastures, forest lands, and wildlife/recreational areas gobbled up by a weed that many liken to an invasion of aliens in a sci-fi movie.

And like the movie monsters, the grass just keeps spreading and spreading.

It has been called “the weed from hell” and “the mother of all invasive species.”

“It is so aggressive, if left unchecked it can replace an entire ecosystem,” says Jim Hancock, invasive plant control program coordinator for the Mississippi Forestry Commission at Brookhaven.

It is so solidly entrenched in many areas of Florida — with more than a million acres infested — that, he says, “It will still be there when Jesus returns.”

Mississippi has just finished the first year of spraying in a $1.1 million suppression program, while Alabama has a $6 million-plus eradication program in progress.

“We’re running a lean, mean operation — everything we’re doing is geared to the spray program,” says Hancock, who briefed landowners on the weed and the control effort at a meeting at Starkville, Miss.

Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), thought to have originated in southeast Asia, is designated by many authorities as the seventh worst weed in the world. It is found in 73 countries on all continents.

It was introduced into the U.S. at Grand Bay, Ala., in 1912 as packing material for a shipment of satsuma orange rootstock from Japan. It was later used in Mississippi and Florida in forage test trials and for erosion control.

Various cultivars (Japanese bloodgrass and Red Baron grass among them) have been used by landscapers and new varieties continue to be introduced, much to the dismay of invasive plant managers and researchers.

No northern boundary for over-wintering has been established, but researchers say most of the eastern U.S. and Pacific Northwest may also be at risk.

In a video presentation, “Cogongrass — The Perfect Weed,” produced for the Mississippi Coastal Plains Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc., which serves six coastal counties — George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, and Stone — Randy Browning, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation, says cogongrass “has no known value and no known enemies.

“Researchers found out pretty quickly it had no value as a forage crop because of its high silicon content.”