Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Mutual Assured Destruction: Revisiting an unlikely occupation

Flowering inflorescence of Imperata cylindrica, with orange anthers and purple stigmas

About a year ago, I wrote about how an invasive grass (Imperata cylindrica) started taking over an island in the parking lot of a building complex.

March 2022

A month or so after I posted that, the owner of the lot acted and when I next saw the lot in May, the entire island had been stripped of its vegetation and probably drenched in herbicides. They had pulled the trigger and given up on being able to selectively weed out the invasive, assuring the destruction of both the invasive grass and all the ornamental plants around it. Even so, I still saw a few blades of cogon grass poking out of the scene of destruction.

May 2022

I visited the area again last week, and the island was still bare, with even the two trees seemingly dead. The owners must have been repeatedly treating it in order to prevent any new regrowth of I. cylindrica. This repeated treatment and monitoring for a minimum of 2 years is a common practice when treating I. cylindrica infections, in order to ensure total eradication.

March 2023

I decided to revisit this old haunt because I had encountered another cluster of I. cylindrica that was weirdly similar to the situation in that parking island last year. In this new case, the invasive grass had grown on the mulched beds of two sidewalk Palm trees, and covered almost 20 m2 at the bases of the trees. 

I. cylindrica cluster around the bases of sidewalk Palm trees

I had spotted it even from a distance because some of the ramets in the cluster were flowering, even though they had been cut close to the ground. When I came near I noticed that the white flowerheads were covered in orange anthers and purple stigmas.

I'm very surprised the cluster had avoided being eliminated by the groundskeepers in the neighborhood, who are usually quite liberal with the use of herbicides to keep most of the area weed free. Perhaps the presence of the palm trees, which are also monocots and thus susceptible to the same types of chemicals as grasses, had so far dissuaded them from acting.

I'm also slightly surprised that the thick mulch (tree bark) around the tree bases have had very little effect in preventing the spread of the invasive. The tenacity of this species can be admirable, even as the authorities curse its weedy nature, and I'll be sure to revisit the cluster occasionally when I can to see how it fares.

A nearby field of flowering I. cylindrica

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