I woke up this morning,

I looked out at my fields.

What I saw out there,

It made me want to squeal.

Them little white flowers,

They was growin’ everywhere.

It’s enough to make a man

Pull out all his hair.

I got the cogongrass blues.

What am I gonna do?

I got the cogongrass blues…

 

It may not make the Hit Parade, but “The Cogongrass Blues,” a ditty by The Blues Rangers band, mirrors the woes of landowners in Mississippi and other southern states who’ve seen their pastures, forest lands, and wildlife/recreational areas gobbled up by a weed that many liken to an invasion of aliens in a sci-fi movie.

And like the movie monsters, the grass just keeps spreading and spreading.

It has been called “the weed from hell” and “the mother of all invasive species.”

“It is so aggressive, if left unchecked it can replace an entire ecosystem,” says Jim Hancock, invasive plant control program coordinator for the Mississippi Forestry Commission at Brookhaven.

It is so solidly entrenched in many areas of Florida — with more than a million acres infested — that, he says, “It will still be there when Jesus returns.”

Like kudzu, another “foreigner” used for early era erosion control, the grass is spreading rapidly across the South — now as far west as eastern Texas and as far east as South Carolina.

In addition to Florida, heaviest infestations are now found across broad areas of southern Georgia, Alabama, and several counties of south Mississippi, and a multi-million dollar effort is now under way to try and curb its advance northward.

In 1979, only 19 counties in southern Mississippi had infestations; today it is in 50 counties across the state and continuing to spread.

Mississippi has just finished the first year of spraying in a $1.1 million suppression program, while Alabama has a $6 million-plus eradication program in progress.

“We’re running a lean, mean operation — everything we’re doing is geared to the spray program,” says Hancock, who briefed landowners on the weed and the control effort at a meeting at Starkville, Miss.

Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), thought to have originated in southeast Asia, is designated by many authorities as the seventh worst weed in the world. It is found in 73 countries on all continents.