Friday, July 4, 2008

Georgia Department of Agriculture bans sale of cogongrass

Georgia Department of Agriculture

Tommy Irvin, Commissioner

19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW

Atlanta, GA 30334



For information contact: Arty Schronce, Tyler Adams, Jackie Sosby or Yao Seidu (404) 656-3689

Ga. Dept. of Agriculture

Bans sale of Cogongrass

The Georgia Department of Agriculture has issued a statewide ban on the sale of Cogongrass, a non-native and aggressively invasive species of grass.

Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) is already listed as a noxious weed by the United States Department of Agriculture and is therefore illegal to transport across state lines.

The new action makes the growing, cultivation or sale of the plant a violation within the state of Georgia.

The grass is sold under the names Japanese blood grass and Red Baron grass. There is a reddish tint to the leaves which accounts for its name and sole ornamental quality. Cultivars such as ‘Red Baron’ are thought to be sterile (producing no viable seed), but long-term behavior of the plant is unknown. Cultivars of the grass have demonstrated aggressive spreading by their roots. They will also sometimes revert to green.

State and federal agencies have been working together for four years to detect all known Cogongrass infestations and to eradicate them.

Cogongrass can form a dense mat that makes it nearly impossible for other plants to coexist. It disrupts ecosystems, reduces wildlife habitat and decreases tree seedling growth. “Think of kudzu as a grass,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin.

This ban is part of an ongoing effort among the nursery industry, USDA Forest Service, University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Forestry Commission to prevent further introductions of cogongrass into the environment.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture has 24 inspectors that will enforce the ban and help educate nurseries and garden centers about this new regulation.

“Georgia garden centers and nurseries are stocked with plenty of other ornamental grasses or other plants that will substitute for these grasses,” said Commissioner Irvin. “Everyone agrees this is a wise precautionary measure.”