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Imperata cylindrica (Cogongrass)

Much information is available online about invasive species. Cogon Grass has received much well deserved negative press in the recent past with websites such as this appearing-
And this-

Accolades to North Carolina for taking both an offensive and defensive position on Imperata cylindrica-
N.C. bans cogongrass, which can take over

Sold as Red Baron, Japanese blood grass, it is held to be one of world's 10 worst weeds

By Janice Gaston | Journal Reporter

Published: July 8, 2008

Is cogongrass North Carolina's next kudzu?

Not if the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services can help it.

The department announced yesterday that propagation, nursery cultivation, sale and distribution of cogongrass, an invasive perennial grass considered one of the world's 10 worst weeds, will be prohibited in North Carolina. Nurseries and garden centers must stop selling all cultivars of cogongrass, including Red Baron, also known as Japanese blood grass, by Oct. 31. Permits for the interstate movement of the grass will be denied.

Home gardeners and landowners won't be required to rip out their patches of Red Baron grass, prized for its blood-red leaves and often used in Japanese gardens. But they will be encouraged to keep the grass under control and watch for signs that it is invading adjacent areas.

The wild, invasive form of cogongrass has spread through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. It has recently been found in Tennessee, but it has not taken hold in North Carolina, said Rick Iverson of Raleigh. Iverson is a weed specialist with the Department of Agriculture. Red Baron grass sometimes reverts to the invasive form. By banning all forms of the grass, Iverson said, "That's what we hope to prevent."

Linda Brandon of Greensboro, a master gardener, has grown Japanese blood grass in her garden. "It's a beautiful plant," she said. "The color is absolutely lovely." Brandon is the volunteer coordinator at the Guilford County Cooperative Extension. The Red Baron variety grows to about 2 feet; its damaging cousin can grow as tall as 6 feet.

Cogongrass in its wild form monopolizes the landscape and prevents the establishment of native species, Iverson said. The plant, a native of Southeast Asia, came to the United States in 1911 as seed in packing materials. Since then, it has covered a million acres in Florida, Brandon said.

Worldwide, cogongrass has covered 1.2 billion acres of land.

The grass, which burns hotter than other brush and foliage, forms a thick thatch on forest floors and can fuel fires. Cogongrass chokes out native grasses and other plants and displaces birds and small animals seeking food. It will invade pastures, robbing livestock of food sources, Brandon said.

LA Reynolds Garden Showcase did not order Red Baron grass this season, said Paulette Shemelya, a sales associate in the perennials department. "We were aware this was coming down the pike." The plant has never been available in abundant quantities, she said, and it hasn't been a big seller.

"We would tell people that it has the potential to be invasive. That usually is the ‘scare' word for many people."

■ Janice Gaston can be reached at 727-7364 or at

■ For more information on cogongrass, check the Web site
Some nurseries, although most were aware a banning of this popular species would come to fruition, continued to propagate the invasive plants even though a banning had long been foreshadowed. Unfortunately, other states will be slow to respond so I suspect there will be a lot of marketing of this plant in states where it isn't banned. This is unfortunate as Cogongrass will be equally as invasive in the states that will be targeted for fire sales as it is in North Carolina.

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