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October 11, 2012

Help Fort Huachuca stop foreign invasion!

Johnson grass, native to the Mediterranean region, is a medium yellow-green grass with broad leaves which have a light-colored vein running down the middle. The grass can grow up to eight feet tall and produces a reddish seed structure at the top. This noxious, invasive weed is best destroyed by pulling, bagging, sealing and discarding it.

Fort Huachuca is an amazingly diverse place in America with its unique ecosystems. The installation is home to a variety of sensitive species in addition to the more prolific species that occupy this land. The native plants and animals are perfectly adapted to this area and able to thrive through the worst conditions the Chihuahuan desert environment can present.

Occasionally, a foreign plant or animal will show up and upset the balance that nature has achieved. These invaders can wreak havoc on an ecosystem and cause massive, and sometimes irreversible, changes. People must sometimes step in, and help undo what we have inadvertently done by introducing these plants or animals to the desert environment.

Johnson grass, Sorghum halepense, is one invasive plant found on Fort Huachuca and in the surrounding areas. This plant is native to the Mediterranean region. Johnson grass was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1800s as animal forage. Later it was discovered that the plant is toxic. It is a very prolific plant and, as of today, it is listed as “invasive” in 48 of the 50 states.

Johnson grass is a medium yellow-green grass with broad leaves which have a light-colored vein running down the middle. The grass can grow up to eight feet tall and produces a reddish seed structure at the top. Johnson grass can reproduce both by seeds and by sending out underground rhizomes that will sprout away from the parent plant. Johnson grass has established itself in many locations on this installation, in the surrounding areas on roadsides and in water catchments by out-competing the native plants for resources. This grass will start as an individual and grow into a dense stand in which nothing else will grow.

But what can people do to help eradicate this invasive plant?

Simple — pull some weeds! Johnson grass can be easily hand pulled, especially after a rain when the soil is moist. It is best to get the roots with it, as it will grow back when the root is left behind. Even if weed-pullers don’t get the roots, they get the seeds and thus make a difference.

Dispose of this grass in a sealed trash bag placed in the trash or a dumpster. It is important not to leave this grass just lying out in the open, as it will re-sprout. A trash bag, light gloves, drinking water and the company of friends or family can help make a difference around the home, office or favorite recreation area. Avoid use of herbicides which are best left to professionals.




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