Image: Courtesy of Ashley Snodgress
In the tropics there are whole mountain ranges covered in cogon, the waving blades of grass standing triumphant in a land denuded of other competing plant life. They call these mega-grasslands sheet Imperata, and these are only the most visible signs of a species that dominate up to 4% of the total land mass of tropical Asia. In some places like Sri Lanka, cogongrass covers an astounding 23% of the country! Even more amazing, this species has been estimated to infest up to 500 million hectares worldwide, which is nearly the size of the total land area of the continental USA.
In the USA itself, Imperata cylindrica is limited to the subtropical southeastern parts of the country, where it lays waste to about half a million hectares. Although the vast cogon grasslands that is so prevalent in tropical Asia are mostly absent in America, I am sometimes astounded by how rapidly the species can spread to cover a large area even in relatively developed land.
In the image above, which was taken in Florida, the landscape seems almost alien and surreal. The entire area is covered in cogongrass, with only a few trees and other taller shrubs scattered about like discarded flotsam in a vast green sea. It almost makes one wonder what lovecraftian monsters might lurk and slither within its dark depths.
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