Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), an invasive perennial introduced from Southeast Asia, is currently spreading throughout the southeastern United States from Florida to Louisiana. In the U.S., cogongrass is generally not considered a wetland species, although it's range is expanding in regions with high wetland abundance. The objective of this study was to determine if excessive soil moisture might prevent cogongrass from establishing in areas with seasonally flooded soils. In one greenhouse experiment, we examined cogongrass germination and seedling growth in soils that were freely drained, saturated, and inundated. We performed a second greenhouse experiment to evaluate growth and survival of cogongrass seedlings of four different size classes in five soil moisture treatments ranging from dry to inundated. Cogongrass germination was lowest when seeds were overtopped with water. There were no differences in germination between saturated and freely drained treatments; however, seedlings grew largest in freely drained soil and were smallest when immersed. In our second experiment, most cogongrass plants survived except when given no water, but growth differed by watering treatment depending on seedling size. Increasing moisture was more detrimental to the growth of small seedlings compared to the growth of larger cogongrass plants. Overall, cogongrass was most sensitive to soil inundation in the earliest stages of establishment; thus, excessive moisture conditions in the spring, during early seedling development, could restrict invasion of cogongrass by seed. Once cogongrass is established, however, its tolerance of flooding appears to increase.
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Vol. 20 • No. 2