Now is the Time to Search for Invasive Cogongrass

Now is the Time to Search for Invasive Cogongrass

Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) is one of the most noxious weeds in the U.S. and has been a problem in the agricultural and timberland for decades.  In more recent years it has been found on our barrier islands.  Stands of cogongrass on the beaches are not as massive and dense as they are in the upland regions of our district, but now is the time to try and manage it before it does.  And NOW is the time to identify whether you have it on your property or not – it is in seed.

Cogongrass shown here with seedheads – more typically seen in the spring. If you suspect you have cogongrass in or around your food plots please consult your UF/IFAS Extension Agent how control options.
Photo credit: Mark Mauldin

Cogongrass produces blades that resemble St. Augustine but are taller and wider.  The blades can reach a height of three feet and the color is more of a yellow green (lime green) than the deep green of St. Augustine.  If you can touch the blade, you will notice that the midline of the parallel leaf veins is off center slightly and the edges of the blades are serrated – feeling like a saw blade when you run fingers from top to bottom.  They usually form dense stands – with a clumping appearance and, as mentioned, it is currently in seed, and this is very helpful with identification.

The midline vein of cogongrass is off-center.
Photo: UF IFAS

The seeds are white, fluffy and elongated extending above the plant so the wind can catch them – similar to dandelions.  These can easily be seen from the highway or riding your bike through the neighborhoods.  As mentioned above, if you see seeds like this you can confirm the identification by examining the leaf blades.  You can also send photos to your county extension office.

The white tufted seeds of cogongrass.
Photo: University of Georgia

If the identification is confirmed the next step is to report the location on EDDMapS –  You can also do this with the free app IveGotOne (which can be found on the EDDMapS website or any app store).  HOWEVER, you cannot report private property without their permission.

The next step would be management.  It is not recommended to mow or disturb the plant while in seed.  Herbicide treatment is most effective in the fall.  Many will mow the plant, allow the grass to resprout no more than 12 inches, and treat this with an herbicide.  It is recommended that you contact your county extension office for recommendations as to which herbicide to use and how.

The negative impacts of this noxious grass have been an issue in the upland communities for decades.  There have been few major issues with it in the coastal zone, but early detection rapid response is the most effective management plan to keep negative impacts from occurring.  We encourage coastal communities to survey for cogongrass while it is in seed and develop a management plan for the fall.

Stem to Stern (Northwest Florida November 2, 2023)

Stem to Stern (Northwest Florida November 2, 2023)

Organized and sponsored by Florida Sea Grant, the “Stem to Stern” workshop in November 2023 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center marked a significant gathering in marine conservation and management. This event drew together legal experts, representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), local marine resource coordinators, law enforcement, and industry stakeholders to tackle critical issues facing Florida’s marine environments. Through discussions that ranged from legal frameworks for boating and waterway access to environmental conservation strategies, the workshop facilitated a deep dive into the complexities of marine policy and stewardship. Discover new programs, insights, and collective expertise shared at “Stem to Stern.”

Florida Sea Grant Boating and Waterways Workshop

November 2, 2023 Emerald Coast Convention Center

1250 Miracle Strip Parkway SE – Ft. Walton Beach FL



Rick O’Connor (Florida Sea Grant UF IFAS Extension)

Moderators –Mike Norberg and Jessica Valek (Okaloosa County)

Panel Discussion

Ryan Hinely (Northwest Florida Marine Industry)

Capt. Keith Clark (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Cecilia James (Panhandle Association of Code Enforcement – PAOCE)

Robert Turpin (Escambia County Division of Marine Resources)

Glenn Conrad (U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary)

Phil Horning (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Pebbles Simmons (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)



Boating, Waterways, and the Rights of Navigation in Florida (2019, 5th Edition)

Moderator – Tom Ankersen (Florida Sea Grant/UF IFAS Extension, Prof Emeritus)

Anchoring and Mooring

Brendan Mackesey (Pinellas County)

Boating Restricted Areas

Byron Flagg (Gray Robinson Law Firm)

10:10 – 10:15 Break


Moderator – Robert Turpin (Escambia County Division of Marine Resources)

Marine Enforcement of Derelict and At-Risk Vessels

Resources: FWC Derelict and A-Risk Vessels

Phil Horning (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Capt. Keith Clark (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Lt. Jarrod Molnar (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Lt. Shelton Bartlett (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

At Risk Vessels

Resources: FWC Derelict and A-Risk Vessels

Phil Horning (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Florida Vessel Turn-in Program (VTIP)

Resources:FWC Florida Vessel Turn-in Program (VTIP)

Phil Horning (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Partnering with FWC to Remove Derelict Vessels

Resources: FWC Derelict Vessel Removal Grant Program

Chantille Weber (UF IFAS Extension) and Scott Jackson (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)

11:15 – 12:15 Lunch

Post Lunch Q&A Derelict Vessel Discussion


Moderator – Dr. Laura Tiu (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)

Update on Giant Salvinia

Resources: FWC Giant Salvinia

Derek Fussell (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Boating and Seagrass protection

Resources: Florida Sea Grant, Be Seagrass Smart – “Scars Hurt”

Savanna Barry (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)

12:55 – 1:20 BOATING SAFETY

Moderator – Chantille Weber (UF IFAS Extension)

Pontoon Boating Safety (Law Enforcement’s Perspective)

Kyle Corbitt (Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department)

Pontoon Boating Safety (Operator’s Perspective)

Resources: Okaloosa County Watersport Operators Coalition

John Stephens (Okaloosa County Watersport Operators Coalition)

1:20 – 1:25          Break


Moderator – Rick O’Connor  (Okaloosa County)

Communicating with the Public

Resources: Florida Sea Grant Communications

Donielle Nardi (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)

Florida Friendly Visitor Program (Working with Recreational Boaters)

Resources: Florida Sea Grant – About Us!

Anna Braswell (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)


Moderator – Thomas Derbes (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)

Clean Vessel Program


Clean Vessel Program and help for Marinas

Clean Vessel Program and how Boaters can Help Keep Florida’s Waters Clean!

Vicki Gambale (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)

Preparing for Storms


UF/IFAS Disaster Preparations and Recovery

UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant – Hurricane Prep: Securing Your Boat

Scott Jackson (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension) and Chantille Weber (UF IFAS Extension)

3:00 – 3:15          EVALUATIONS – Rick O’Connor (Florida Sea Grant, UF IFAS Extension)

3:15 – 3:45          WRAP UP – Robert Turpin (Escambia County Marine Resources)


FWC Logo Destin Fort Walton Beach Logo



We extend our deepest gratitude to all who contributed to the success of the “Stem to Stern” workshop. To our esteemed speakers, whose expertise and insights into marine conservation and management have been invaluable, we offer our sincere thanks. Your presentations were not only informative but also inspirational, guiding us toward a more sustainable future for our waterways.

A special acknowledgment goes to the members of the planning and program committee. Your dedication and hard work in organizing this event did not go unnoticed. From the initial planning stages to the execution of the workshop, your efforts have been the backbone of this successful gathering.

We also want to thank the authors of the surveys that have provided us with essential data and perspectives. Your research and analysis contribute significantly to our understanding of the challenges and opportunities within Florida boating and waterways.

Lastly, we are incredibly grateful for the support from our sponsors. Your generosity and commitment to Florida Sea Grant and marine conservation have been crucial in bringing this workshop to life. Your support not only made this event possible but also highlights your dedication to safeguarding our marine ecosystems.

Together, we have taken an important step towards protecting and enhancing Florida’s waterways. Thank you for your contributions, commitment, and shared vision for a sustainable future.

Information edited and compiled by: L. Scott Jackson, Chantille Weber, and Amon Philyaw, UF/IFAS Extension Bay County

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Andra Johnson, Dean. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.

NISAW 2024 – Wrap Up

NISAW 2024 – Wrap Up

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

With our articles this week we hoped to make you more aware of what an invasive species is, why they need to be managed, and some of the threats that exist in the Florida panhandle.  We highlighted several species but there are many more.  Some, like Chinese Tallow and Japanese Climbing Fern, are well established and will never be eradicated.  Others, like giant salvinia and the Cuban treefrog, have been detected early enough that there MAY be a chance.  As with all of these species – we only know what we know.  It is likely that all locations of these species have not been reported. 

This is where you can help. 

Volunteers from the University of West Florida are removing beach vitex from Pensacola Beach. Photo: Rick O’Connor

The first thing you can do is become familiar with the invasive species in your area. 

The Six Rivers Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) includes Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Homes, and Washington counties in the Florida panhandle.  It also includes Baldwin, Escambia, and Covington counties in Alabama.  On their website you will find a tab on the tool bar labeled EDRR.  Here you can see a list of EDRR species found for this CISMA.  We also have a list of what we call the “Dirty Dozen”.  These are the top 12 established invasive species in this management area.  The Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance CISMA includes Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla counties.  You can find the same information for that area at their website.   

Second, report any invasive species to the EDDMapS database. 

This is a national database used by resource managers to assess the status of invasive species in their area and develop management plans to address.  We need your help reporting.  You can do so on that website or download the app I’veGotOne from the website or your favorite app store.  This is a free app that will allow you to photograph and report invasive species from the field.  The data from this app populates the EDDMapS database. 

Third, help manage these species. 

You can do this on your property or participate in a community event that is removing invasive species in your area.  If you have questions on the best methods for managing your property, or where a local event is occurring, contact your county extension office or your local CISMA.

Fourth, help us educate more in the panhandle about this issue.  The effort to manage invasive species is similar to managing litter and debris.  The more groups that are engaged, the larger our impact will be. 

NISAW 2024 – Giant Salvinia

NISAW 2024 – Giant Salvinia

National Invasive Species Awareness Week


Most likely not. 

The number of reports in the entire of Florida are very few.  So, unless you live near one of the infested areas you are most likely not aware of this invasive plant. 

This is an EDRR species with reason for concern. 

The first record of this plant in the Pensacola area was in 2018.  I was called to a local residence to discuss a possible living shoreline when we observed giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) floating on the west arm of Bayou Chico.  Further investigation found the plant inhabiting the north arm of Bayou Chico as well as the Jackson Lake area.  Though not reported on EDDMapS, we now know the plant has moved into the retention pond at nearby Lexington Terrace.  There are currently nine records of this plant in that area, but we know that the plant covers much of that waterbody. 

Active growing Giant Salvinia was observed growing out of the pond water on to moist soils and emerging cypress and tupelo tree trunks. Photo by L. Scott Jackson

At that time, I checked EDDMapS for other records in Florida.  There was a report from Bay and one from Gadsden Counties.  I did note that there were large infestations in Louisiana and Texas.  There were also posts and videos from Texas explaining the bad situation they had and how residents there could help.  The concern was so high from those states that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission formed a small team, based out of Bay County, to battle this plant and reduce its chance of spreading here.  A true EDRR effort.  That team is very present in Escambia County with constant survey and treatment projects ongoing.

A couple of years ago I was heading out west to camp.  Our first stop was at Lake Bistineau near Shreveport LA.  After setting up camp we walked down to the lake and witnessed a lake completely covered with small floating plants.  No water could be seen.  I did see a floating screen holding the floating plant outside of the swimming area.  We walked onto a dock set up for fishing but there was no way you could fish there.  The plant was so thick it would be impossible to get your bait below the surface.  Then it hit me… this was giant salvinia – the plant FWC and local counties were working on controlling.  I could see firsthand what would happen if we did nothing.  From the dock I walked over to the swimming area and found a sign informing everyone about the potential threat of this plant and to be very careful NOT to take it with you to another area of the lake, or another body of water.  After returning home, I worked with our county to educate the public about this plant, how to identify, report, and manage it. 

Giant salvinia overgrowth in a backwater section of Bayou Chico in Escambia County. Photo credit: Escambia County Natural Resource Management

Giant salvinia is originally from Brazil and Argentina.  It resembles our native duckweed but the leaves are larger – 0.5-1.0 inches long.  It was intentionally brought here as an aquatic ornamental plant.  It prefers freshwater with little or no movement and high in nutrients.  We already mentioned how it can impede fishing and swimming – but it also blocks sunlight needed for submerged grasses and, during decomposition, can lower the dissolved oxygen within the water to levels lethal to fish and invertebrates. 

The nine records in Pensacola, one in Panama City, and one in near Quincy have now been joined by 12 other records in Florida.  Nine are in Jacksonville, two near Naples, and one near Lakeland.  It has also been reported in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and the California/Arizona state line. 

This is not a plant we want to spread across our state, EDRR is very important here.

What can you do to help?

  1. Report any possible sighting to your local county extension office.  If you are not sure if it is the plant – report anyway, someone will come out to verify the identification. 
  2. If it is small patches, remove from the water using a crab net, or swimming pool skimmer, place the plant out in the yard in direct sunlight to dry and kill it.  It can then be double bagged and thrown in the trash. 
  3. If there are large areas covered with the plant, again, contact your county extension office who will connect with the FWC team to begin treatments. 

As always, if you have any questions about this, or any other invasive species, contact your county extension office. 

NISAW 2024 – Cuban Treefrog

NISAW 2024 – Cuban Treefrog

National Invasive Species Awareness Week



Some of you have been following this story in this newsletter, some of you may have attended our workshop in Panama City in September of 2023 (where we caught three of them), and some of you may have found the frog on your property.  But some of you may be unaware this common invasive animal from central and south Florida has been found here.  Well… it has. 

The Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) is native to Cuban, and other Caribbean Islands, and arrived in Florida in the early part of the 20th century – most likely as a hitchhiker on a container or cargo boat.  From there they have dispersed across the Florida peninsula where they have been established for several decades now. 

Cuban Treefrog. Photo by: Dr. Steve Johnson

There are several issues with this non-native frog.  For one, there are environmental impacts.  They are large treefrogs and prey on many of our native species.  There is evidence of the decline of native frogs due to their presence – and this includes predation of Cuban treefrog tadpoles on native frog tadpoles.  Their skin produces a mild toxin that has not stopped native frog predators from consuming them, but appears they are less nutritious and may be avoided.  There is also evidence they may have introduced new diseases and parasites that are impacting native amphibians. 

Two, there are negative impacts on humans – our quality of life.  One issue is sheer number.  Our homes provide many places for them to hide, and food to eat.  As they out compete, or consume, the native frogs, they quickly increase in numbers to the point where they are a nuisance.  Lots of feeding frogs produce a lot of frog feces, which can leave an unsightly mess all over the house.  Unlike many of our native frogs, they have no problem entering our homes.  The high numbers gathered around the porch light near the front door – an open door is easy access for them.  They have also accessed homes via the vent pipe for the bathroom.  Many have opened the lid of their toilet to find a large treefrog sitting, or swimming, there.   Large numbers of frogs also mean large numbers of singing males, and they prefer to call just before dawn – annoying many homeowners.  Add to this the toxin it produces in its skin.  Though not lethal it is very irritating to the eyes and nose and can cause seizures in pets who may grab one.  They have been known to hide in electric panels on the outside of homes and cause short circuits to electrical systems. 

The first I heard of a Cuban treefrog in the Florida panhandle was a colony near Tyndall AFB in Bay County.  It was later verified that they were breeding.  There had been other one-off reports of them, but this indicated that they could tolerate our colder winters – though our winters have been mild in recent years.  There were further reports from Okaloosa County, Santa Rosa County, and Escambia County.  EDDMapS now lists at least one record in every panhandle county except Holmes, Washington, and Liberty.  It is believed the common method of introduction is hitchhiking on trucks delivering plants, or other products, coming from south Florida.  It is very likely that the frogs are in those three counties and have not been reported. 

Range of Cuban treefrog


First, it is a treefrog.  This means that it has enlarged toe pads for climbing trees and sticking to the sides of buildings.  Treefrogs tend to feed at night and are often seen on houses near exterior lights where insects gather.  During the day they will hunker down in shrubs and trees.  If you have them, you will most likely see them on the side of your home at night. 

Cuban Treefrog Photo: UF IFAS

Second, they are much larger than our native treefrogs.  Most of our native treefrogs do not grow longer than three inches, Cuban treefrogs can reach lengths up to six inches.  So, a large treefrog is most likely one. 

Third, they can appear in a variety of colors.  Green, gray, brown, and even white individuals can be found.  But they have warty skin.  Many native treefrogs have smooth skin.  Some have granular skin that may appear warty – but Cuban treefrogs are warty. 

NOTE: Cuban treefrogs will NOT have warty skin covering the head.  The small native cricket frogs, who also have warty skin and do have warts on head area.  Check notes on young treefrogs below. 

Fourth, they have a yellow color under their armpits and in the groin area. 

Fifth, with larger Cuban treefrogs, the skin will be fused to the skull. 

Young Cuban treefrogs – those within the size range of our native frogs, have bluish colored leg bones when viewed from the belly side.  They also have large red “bug eyes” and a yellow stripe extending from their eye (not the lip) to the rear leg. 

This is an EDRR species in the Florida panhandle currently.  We are not sure where on the invasive species curve their populations currently lie, but a rapid response is in order for this species. 

To verify identification and advice on managing, contact your county extension office.  If you are in the Pensacola area, we will be holding a workshop on this topic April 25, 2024 at the Escambia County Extension Office.  We will be providing PVC treefrog traps to help capture them.  If interested contact Rick O’Connor at 850-475-5230 ext.1111, or email   


NISAW 2024 – Cogongrass

NISAW 2024 – Cogongrass

National Invasive Species Awareness Week


Many may be familiar with this noxious weed but that is because it has been a problem in agricultural and timber lands for many decades now. 

Cogongrass seedheads are easily spotted in spring. Photo credit: Mark Mauldin

This grass (Imperata cylindrica) is native to Southeast Asia and arrived by accident within cargo delivered to the port of Mobile in the early part of the 20th century.  It quickly spread and has been a menace ever since.  It can be found in ditches, roadsides, empty lots, golf courses, pastures, and timberlands.  On a recent drive south through Mobile County there was nowhere the plant could not be found.  The current records on EDDMapS shows the plant has spread through nine states in the southeastern U.S. and every county in Florida.  Cogongrass has serrated edges and is imbedded with silica, so is not a popular forage plant with many forms of livestock and wildlife.  It burns very hot and has made land management with prescribe fire difficult.  States across the south spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually trying to control the plant.  Though working primarily in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties of the Florida panhandle, the Longleaf Alliance has a team focused on managing it. 

My role with UF IFAS Extension is with Florida Sea Grant, I focus on coastal issues.  A couple of years ago, we received a call from a condo manager on Perdido Key who believed they had found cogongrass growing on their property.  I, along with natural resource personnel from Escambia County, made a site visit and sure enough – there was cogongrass growing around their swimming pool.  It most likely got there by the lawn maintenance crew.  This is a common method of spreading this plant.  Crews mow the grass down, do not clean their equipment, load it on a trailer, and spread the plant to other locations.  However it got there, this was a classic EDRR situation on our islands and plans were made to remove the plant without harming the native sea oats nearby. 

Cogongrass, like beach vitex, is allelopathic – it can draw moisture away from nearby plants, killing them, and taking over their space.  The plant can grow into thick monocultures displacing the native dune plants and altering the ecology – possibly impacting the federal protected Perdido Key beach mouse.  It is a relatively new issue on our barrier islands.  The current EDDMapS records show the plant has been found on Horn Island and Petiti Bois Island in Mississippi – Dauphin Island, Ft. Morgan peninsula, and Gulf Shores in Alabama – Perdido Key, Santa Rosa Island, Destin, south Walton, St. Andrew’s State Park, Tyndall AFB, Cape San Blas, St. Vincent Island, Apalachicola, and the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in the Florida panhandle.  This is most likely under reported and notes that the invasion of the coastal areas has begun.  A rapid response is needed. 


First it is a grass.  It resembles typical turf grass, but the blades are tall – up to three feet high – and the blades are between 0.5-1.0 inches wide.  It has a lighter green color than most of the native plants but does become brown in colder weather.  It is usually found in very dense patches and looks “invasive” – like it is taking over the landscape.  Close inspection of the blades you will find the edges rough (serrated) and the “veins” all running parallel (not branching) with the darker midline not in the middle of the blade but offset to one side.  When the grass goes to seed in the spring it can be identified by the white “fluffy” seeds that extend above the grass and are dispersed by the wind – much like dandelions. 

The midline vein of cogongrass is off-center. Photo: UF IFAS
The white tufted seeds of cogongrass. Photo: University of Georgia

Managing this plant is very difficult.  Fragments of the rhizomes can generate re-growth and removing all of the rhizomes by hand is very difficult.  Herbicide treatment is the most effective and the grass tends to return even with this.  The best time to apply herbicide is in the fall. 

If you think you may have this grass, contact your county extension office to verify and for advice on how to manage.