Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 435–442 | Cite as

Invasion success of cogongrass, an alien C4 perennial grass, in the southeastern United States: exploration of the ecological basis

Original Paper


Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) is considered one of the worst invasive species in the world. The species is readily adaptable to a wide range of environmental conditions and upon invasion reduces forest productivity, alters nutrient cycling, and threatens native species biodiversity. This paper explores seven major ecological hypotheses (Propagule Pressure Hypothesis, Natural Enemies or Enemy Release Hypothesis, Empty Niche Hypothesis, Invasional Meltdown Hypothesis, Evolution of Increased Competitive Ability Hypothesis/Superior Competitor Hypothesis, Novel Weapons Hypothesis, and Diversity—Invasibility (Elton’s) Hypothesis) that explain the invasiveness of cogongrass in the southeastern United States. Information gathered from this review can be used to reduce the spread of cogongrass and is applicable for control of other invasive species as well.


Imperata cylindrica Cogongrass Biological diversity Invasive theory 



The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript.


  1. Ayeni AO, Duke WB (1985) The influence of rhizome features on subsequent regenerative capacity in speargrass [Imperata cylindrica (L.) Veauv.]. Agr Ecosyst Environ 13:309–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bais HP, Vepachedu R, Gilroy S, Callaway RM, Vivanco JM (2003) Allelopathy and exotic plant invasion: from molecules and genes to species interactions. Science 301:1377–1380CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bajwa R (2005) Effects of arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) and effective microorganisms (EM) on various plants under allelopathic stress. Allelopathy J 16:261–271Google Scholar
  4. Blossey B, Nötzold R (1995) Evolution of increased competitive ability in invasive nonindigenous plants: a hypothesis. J Ecol 83:887–889CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brewer S (2008) Declines in plant species richness and endemic plant species in longleaf pine savannas invaded by Imperata cylindrica. Biol Invasions 10:1257–1264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brewer JS, Cralle SP (2003) Phosphorus addition reduces invasion of longleaf pine savanna (Southeastern USA) by a non-indigenous grass (Imperata cylindrica). Plant Ecol 167:237–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Callaway RM, Aschehoug ET (2000) Invasive plants versus their new and old neighbors: a mechanism for exotic invasion. Science 290:521–523CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Colautti RI, Grigorovich IA, Macisaac HJ (2006) Propagule pressure: a null model for biological invasions. Biol Invasions 8:1023–1037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins AR, Jose S (2008) Cogongrass invasion alters soil chemical properties of natural and planted forestlands. In: Kohli RK, Jose S, Batish D, Singh H (eds) Invasive plants and forest ecosystems. CRC, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins AR, Jose S, Daneshgar P, Ramsey C (2007) Elton’s hypothesis revisited: an experimental test using cogongrass. Biol Invasions 9:433–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Daneshgar P, Jose S (2009a) Imperata cylindrica, an alien invasive grass, maintains control over nitrogen availability in an establishing pine forest. Plant Soil 320:209–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daneshgar P, Jose S (2009b) Role of species identity in plant invasions: experimental test using Imperata cylindrica. Biol Invasions 11:1431–1440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Daneshgar P, Jose S, Ramsey C, Collins AR (2008) Impacts of an invasive grass on the productivity of an establishing pine forest. Forest Sci 54:579–587Google Scholar
  14. Davis MA, Grime JP, Tompson K (2000) Fluctuating resources in plant communities: a general theory of invasibility. J Ecol 88:528–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dozier H, Gaffney JF, McDonald SK, Johnson ERRL, Shilling DG (1998) Cogongrass in the United States. History, ecology, impacts, and management. Weed Technol 12:737–743Google Scholar
  16. Ehrenfeld JG (2003) Effects of exotic plant invasions on soil nutrient cycling processes. Ecosystems 6:503–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elton CS (1958) The ecology of invasion by animals and plants. T Metheun and Co., LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Hierro JL, Maron JL, Callaway RM (2005) A biogeographical approach to plant invasions: the importance of studying exotics in their introduced and native range. J Ecol 93:5–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hobbs RJ, Huenneke LF (1992) Disturbance, diversity, and invasion: implications for conservation. Conserv Biol 6:324–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holm LG, Pucknett DL, Pancho JB, Herberger JP (1977) The world’s worst weeds. Distribution and biology. University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu, HIGoogle Scholar
  21. Holzmueller EJ, Jose S (2009) Invasive plant conundrum: what makes the aliens so successful? J Trop Agr 47:18–29Google Scholar
  22. Holzmueller EJ, Jose S (In Press) Response of cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) to imazapyr herbicides on a reclaimed phosphate-mine site in central Florida, USA. Ecol RestorGoogle Scholar
  23. Hussain F, Abidi N (1991) Allelopathy exhibited by Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv. P. Pak. J Bot 23:15–25Google Scholar
  24. Inderjit S, Dakshini KMM (1991) Investigations on some aspects of chemical ecology of cogongrass, Imperta cylindrical (L.) Beauv. J Chem Ecol 17:343–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jose S, Tripathi N (2008) Role of natural and anthropogenic disturbance in exotic invasions: predicting Imperata cylindrica invasion of southeastern forests using ecological niche modeling. 93rd ESA annual meeting, August 2–8, Milwaukee, WIGoogle Scholar
  26. Jose S, Cox J, Miller DL, Shilling DG, Merritt S (2002a) Alien plant invasions: the story of cogongrass in southeastern Florida. J Forest 100:41–44Google Scholar
  27. Jose S, Ramsey CL, Miller DL, Cox J, Portier KM, Shilling DG, Merritt S (2002b) Above and belowground cogongrass responses to disking and herbicides over a 2-year time period. Second Annual Report of the Cogongrass Project, West Florida REC, Milton, FL 25 pGoogle Scholar
  28. Joshi J, Vrieling K (2005) The enemy release and EICA hypothesis revisited: incorporating the fundamental difference between specialist and generalist herbivores. Ecol Lett 8:704–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Keane RM, Crawley MJ (2002) Exotic plant invasions and the enemy release hypothesis. Trends Ecol Evol 17:164–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. King SE, Grace JB (2000) The effects of gap size and disturbance type on invasion of wet pine savanna by cogongrass, Imperata cylindrica (Poaceae). Am J Bot 87:1279–1286CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Koger CH, Bryson CT (2004) Effect of cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) extracts on germination and seedling growth of selected grass and broadleaf species. Weed Technol 18:236–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Levine J, D’antonio CM (1999) Elton revised: a review of evidence linking diversity and invisibility. Oikos 87:15–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lippincott CL (2000) Effects of Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv. (Cogongrass) invasion on fire regime in Florida sandhill (USA). Nat Area J 20:140–149Google Scholar
  34. Lowe S, Browne M, Boudjela, S, De Poorter M (2004) 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species a selection from the global invasive species database. Published by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) a specialist group of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), 12 pGoogle Scholar
  35. MacArthur RH (1970) Species packing and competitive equilibruium for many species. Theor Popul Biol 1:1–11CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. MacDonald GE (2004) Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica)—Biology, ecology and management. Crit Rev Plant Sci 23:367–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. MacDonald GE (2007) Cogongrass: the plant’s biology, distribution, and impacts in the Southeastern US. In: Loewenstein NJ, Miller JH (eds) Proceedings of the regional cogongrass conference: a cogongrass management guide. Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University, Mobile, AL, pp 10–23Google Scholar
  38. Mack RN, Simberloff D, Lonsdale WM, Evans H, Clout M, Bazzaz FA (2000) Biotic invasions: causes, epidemiology, global consequences, and control. Ecol Appl 10:689–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Miller JH, Schelhas JW (2008) Adaptive collaborative restoration: a key concept for invasive plant management. In: Kohli RK, Jose S, Singh HP, Batish DR (eds) Invasive plants and forest ecosystems. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 251–265Google Scholar
  40. Patterson DT (1980) Shading effects on growth and partitioning of plant biomass in cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) from shaded and exposed habitats. Weed Sci 28:735–740Google Scholar
  41. Ramsey CL, Jose S, Miller DL, Cox J, Portier KM, Shilling DG, Merritt SM (2003) Cogongrass [Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv.] response to herbicide and disking on a cutover site in a mid-rotation pine plantation in Southern USA. Forest Ecol Manag 179:195–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Simberloff D, Von Holle B (1999) Positive interactions of nonindigenous species: invasional meltdown? Biol Invasions 1:21–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Van Loan AN, Meeker JR, Minno MC (2002) Cogongrass. In: Van Driesche R et al (eds) Biological control of invasive plants in the eastern United States. USDA Forest Service Publication FHTET-2002-04, Ogden 413 pGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilcove D, Rothstein D, Dubow J, Phillips A, Losos E (1998) Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. Bioscience 48:607–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Willard TR, Hall DW, Shilling DG, Lewis JA, Currey WL (1990) Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) distribution on Florida highway rights-of-way. Weed Technol 4:658–660Google Scholar
  46. Williamson M (1996) Biological invasions. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ForestrySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  2. 2.Center for Agroforestry, School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations