Would you like to see South Carolina’s rural areas empty of whitetail deer, turkey, doves, squirrels, quail and rabbits? Would hunters like to be left without anything to hunt?

That’s one of the ultimate threats posed by cogongrass, one of the worst invasive species in the world, according to George Kessler, cogongrass coordinator at Clemson University.

A native of Asia, cogongrass spreads through wind-blown seed and rhizomes, and once established it can choke out native plants, destroy sources of food for wildlife and raise the potential for forest fires, according to Kessler.

When the grass dries in the winter, if it catches fire it can burn at a temperature as high as 800 degrees F., and the flames can go up high enough to kill pines up to 15 feet tall.

“This is why the Cogongrass Task Force has scheduled a survey of the 26 counties closest to Georgia for May 15-18,” Kessler said. “We need at least 500 volunteers to help us find cogongrass.”

The survey will be done by region over the four-day period.

• Region 1 will include the counties of Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton and Jasper.

• Region 2 counties are Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Orangeburg and Richland.

• Region 3 counties include Aiken, Edgefield, Greenwood, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda.

• Region 4 counties are Abbeville, Anderson, Greenville, Laurens, Pickens and Oconee.

To become a volunteer go to http://www.clemson.edu/for/cogon_surveyform.htm and to register. You may also call Jeanne Campbell in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at (864) 656-2479.

Volunteer names will be given to county assignment coordinators in each county and will be contacted and asked to work in selected areas.

Volunteers will look for cogongrass at places where landscape plants are sold, along power line and utility rights of way, along highways and railroads coming out of Georgia, parks, boat landings and campgrounds, hunt clubs, cattle and horse farms, even deer processing facilities.

“As people locate cogongrass, they will report it to a site coordinator, who will send an identifier to confirm plant identity. The identifier will report the confirmation and it will be entered into a database for future treatment,” said Kessler.

“The more people who volunteer the more area we can cover and this will really help to eradicate cogongrass.”

Cogongrass has been found in seven South Carolina counties — Allendale, Anderson, Aiken, Beaufort, Charleston, Hampton and Pickens.

“We have a chance to control it if we find the plants while the spots of infestation are small,” Kessler said. He said that cogongrass is known to occupy at least 200,000 acres in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.

If not contained, experts fear the weed could eventually turn the Southeast into a grassy savannah devoid of all native species.