Imperata cylindrica, commonly known as blady grass, cogon grass ( //), kunai grass ( //), or Japanese bloodgrass, is a species of grass in the genus Imperata. It is placed in the subfamily Panicoideae, supertribe Andropogonodae, tribe Andropogoneae.
It is a perennial rhizomatous grass native to east and southeast Asia, India, Micronesia, Australia, and eastern and southern Africa. It grows from 0.6–3 m (2–10 feet) tall. The leaves are about 2 cm wide near the base of the plant and narrow to a sharp point at the top; the margins are finely toothed and are embedded with sharp silica crystals. The main vein is a lighter colour than the rest of the leaf and tends to be nearer to one side of the leaf. The upper surface is hairy near the base of the plant while the underside is usually hairless. Roots are up to 1.2 meters deep, but 0.4 m is typical in sandy soil.
Imperata cylindrica is found in areas where the soil has been disturbed, such as roadsides, building sites, timber harvesting areas, and borrow pits. It is able to invade both moist and dry upland pine forests. Once established it often forms dense monocultures.
Cultivation and uses
It is planted extensively for ground cover and soil stabilization near beach areas and other areas subject to erosion. Other uses include paper-making, thatching and weaving into mats and bags. However, its most common usefulness may be seen in its medicinal properties which include astringent, febrifuge, diuretic, tonic, and styptic actions. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
The plant has become naturalized in the Americas, Northern Asia, Europe and Africa in addition to many islands and is listed as an invasive weed in some areas. In the U.S. it survives best in the Southeast (and, according to a 2003 survey, has overtaken more acreage in that region than the notorious kudzu), but has been reported to exist as far north as West Virginia and Oregon. Worldwide it has been observed from 45°N to 45°S. It grows on wet lands, dry lands, areas of high salinity, organic soils, clay soils and sandy soils of pH from 4.0 to 7.5. It prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade.
In the Southeastern United States, state governments have various eradication efforts in place, and deliberate propagation is prohibited by some authorities. Control is typically by the use of herbicides. Burnoff is seldom successful since the grass burns quite hot causing heat damage to trees which would ordinarily be undamaged by a controlled burn and recovers from a burn quickly.
Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that types of this grass are quite flammable even when apparently green - particularly in Southeast Asian climates. It is not uncommon to see hillsides of cogon grass on fire.
A common expression in the Philippines is ningas cogon ('cogon brush fire'). It is a figure of speech for procrastination, specifically people who show a fervent interest in a new project but lose interest quickly. It's in reference to the propensity of cogon grass to catch fire and burn out quickly.
Imperata cylindrica was first described by Linnaeus in 1759 under the basionym Lagurus cylindricus. They were renamed by the French entomologist and botanist Palisot de Beauvois to the current accepted name of Imperata cylindrica.
Local English names:
- Australia: blady grass
- Nigeria: speargrass
- South Africa: silver spike
- USA: cogongrass, cogon grass, cogon, kunai grass, sword grass, Japanese bloodgrass
Names in other languages:
- "Beware of Cogon Grass". Florida Division of Forestry. http://www.fl-dof.com/forest_management/fh_invasives_cogon.html. Retrieved 21 February 2010.
- "Imperata". Sen - traditional Chinese medicine (tcm). http://www.senhealth.com/vsite/vcontent/page/xmlcontent/0,11740,4822-129372-130680-19390-69117-xmlcontent-item,00.html. Retrieved 13 July 2011. [dead link]
- Imperata cylindrica - Plants For A Future database report
- Imperata cylindrica
- Aggressive weed becoming a menace worse than kudzu, UF researcher says
- "Factsheet - Mucuna pruriens". www.tropicalforages.info. http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/Mucuna_pruriens.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
- Species Description: Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv.
- 'Establishment of Stylo (Stylosanthes Guianensis) in Kunai (Imperata cylindrica) pastures and its Effect of Dry Matter Yield and Animal Production in the Markham Valley, Papua New Guinea by P.A. Chadhokar
- Fire leaves 20 without shelter
- Filipino Culture: What is Ningas Cogon
- Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008. Imperata cylindrica. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants (http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/).[S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.
- "Imperata cylindrica". Missouri Botanical Garden, http://www.tropicos.org/. http://www.tropicos.org/NameSynonyms.aspx?nameid=25548549. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Cogon