Georgia residents are being asked to keep an eye out for flowering vegetation that's pretty on the outside, but dangerous on the inside.
"Cogongrass is a real threat to Georgia's forests, fields, pastures, yards and landscapes," said Mark McClure, senior forest health specialist with the Georgia Forestry Commission.
"It's an invasive weed that's highly flammable and increases the risk of wildfire. It also smothers natural vegetation, which reduces wildlife habitat, tree and plant regeneration and ecological diversity."
McClure said cogongrass is most easily identified in the spring (March through June), when its fluffy white seed heads are produced atop attractive, flowing green stems.
Cogongrass has sharp, pointed rhizomes ("roots" of the grass) and leaves with a white, off-center mid-rib. It grows in a distinctive matted, circular pattern in numerous soil types.
According to McClure, this destructive weed was introduced to the United States near Grand Bay, Ala., in 1911 via packing material in shipping containers from Japan.
Since then, it has become widespread throughout the Southeast.
"Cogongrass has now spread into 51 Georgia counties," said McClure. "613 infestation spots have been identified, and most of them are now negative for cogongrass. With the eyes of every Georgian, we stand a better chance of stopping this invasive species before it spreads throughout the state.
" McClure said anyone who believes they have located an outbreak of cogongrass should call their local office of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
More information about cogongrass, including photographs, and services of the GFC can be found at http://www.GaTrees.org.