The presence in Arkansas of cogongrass, an invasive species native to Southeast Asia, has been confirmed, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
The department said in a news release that Charles Bryson, a retired botanist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spotted cogongrass, or Imperata cylindrica, in Helena-West Helena along U.S. 49. Bryson's discovery prompted officials with the Agriculture Department, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Arkansas Department of Transportation to spray the area with herbicide. A survey of the immediate area detected no other cogongrass populations.
Because of tillage and frequent herbicide use, cogongrass isn't considered a threat to row crops, but it can quickly grow along roadsides, rights of way and in pastures and forest land and overtake desirable vegetation.
Cogongrass has spread across the Deep South, from Florida to Mississippi over the past few decades. It can spread by wind or by equipment and vehicles moved from state to state.
Cogongrass has bright green leaves with serrated margins and a distinctive white vein that is slightly off-center from the middle of the leaf. It has no true, above-ground stem, and the leaves emerge directly from stout, creeping rhizomes, which are underground stems.
The department said any sightings should be reported to Paul Shell, its manager for plant inspection and quarantine, at email@example.com or (501) 225-1598.