SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - A grass plant called one of the most aggressive weeds in the world, is quickly spreading throughout Mississippi and the entire southeast. If you haven't yet heard of cogon grass, you've certainly seen it. Some folks are calling it the new kudzu of the South.
Large patches of the grass thrive along Interstate 10, its feathery blooms swaying in the breeze. Some varieties have actually been sold as ornamentals, but there's a definite downside to non-native grass plant.
The Mississippi Forestry Commission describes it as "one of the world's most aggressive plants" and "a dangerous alien grass."
"It smothers out everything in its path," said Buck Johnson with the Harrison County Soil & Water District. "We just need to get all of our government agencies working together on it and realize it's a serious problem."
Johnson said the problem extends far beyond the shoulders of roadways. Farmers are dealing with cogon grass choking out pastures and fields.
"It's serious here. We've had a lot of farmers that we've given the chemical to to spray their property. But if the neighbor next door doesn't spray his, the next year here it goes, it's coming right back."
One thing about cogon grass, it can spread widely and quickly. Each one of those feather tops has hundreds of seeds that can be blown about by the wind.
"It's very prolific. It likes living here. Biggest concern is it displaces our natural grass species in the landscape," said Dr. Gary Bachman with the Mississippi State Extension Service.
He's been watching this large field of cogon grass across from his office, get bigger and bigger. It's not just those feathery blooms which spread their seed early, before native grasses. Cogon grass also has a tenacious root system.
"The underground roots form a very impenetrable mat. And actually kind of, it's like an exclusion barrier where nothing else is going to grow through that mat."
There are chemical sprays to kill cogon grass, but you have to apply it for several years because this invasive species is so tough. We're told M-DOT sprays for cogon grass twice a year, but from what anyone can see along I-10, it doesn't seem to be doing much good.