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Think Global Alabama -- Friday Report

By Butler Cain, Alabama Public Radio

Think Global Alabama -- Friday Report

Undated, AL – This week, Alabama Public Radio has been reporting on some of the effects globalization has had on Alabama. In the final part of this series, Butler Cain reports on an issue that is not new. In fact, it's been happening for decades, if not centuries, and Alabamians probably encounter it every day -- but don't know it.

Cogon grass probably is not at the top of most people's list of recognizable grasses. It grows in southwest Alabama, and it has attracted the interest of environmental scientists. First of all, it's not native to the state. Edzard van Santen is a geneticist and plant breeder in Auburn University's agronomy department.

"To the best of our knowledge, it came in as packing material for satsuma orange trees around 1912 down in Mobile County."

Since then, it has spread uncontrollably. It's already covering western Alabama and has reached almost as far north as Tuscaloosa. It's considered an invasive species, and van Santen describes the tropical grass as very dangerous. He says it has the potential to seriously affect the area's environmental balance.

"Gotta remember that wildlife depends on, it's adapted to a native habitat. And when this comes, an invasive species comes in, it may destroy this habitat for birds, for other wildlife."

The problem of invasive plant and animal species has been getting more attention lately as international travel and trade become more popular. Efforts are underway to prevent Cogon grass from spreading farther north, but van Santen says it's unlikely the plant will be completely eradicated.

For the Alabama Report, I'm Butler Cain.

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