Invasive weed discovered in South Carolina
BEAUFORT — A weed with a pretty flower and a nasty tendency to infest important crops has been discovered in South Carolina nestled in a homeowner’s yard.
Officials with the Department of Plant Industry, a regulatory arm of Clemson University that helps protect the state from plant pests and diseases, confirmed the discovery of Benghal dayflower in Beaufort.
“We’ve been looking for it for years,” said Christel Harden, the assistant department head who leads the department’s effort to curb the spread of regulated plant pests. “We expected to find it in a soybean field and found it someone’s yard instead.”
Benghal dayflower, which bears the alias “tropical spiderwort” and an official name of Commelina benghalensis, is regulated by both the state and federal governments as a noxious weed.
Plant inspectors from the department will conduct a house-to-house survey for the weed in Beaufort next week, concentrating their search in the neighborhoods near Bay Street and Ribaut Road.
Letters explaining the survey and describing the target weed have been sent to homeowners in the survey area. Surveyors will carry photo identification and credentials from the Clemson University Department of Plant Industry.
“The purpose of the survey is to determine the extent that Benghal dayflower exists in the Beaufort area,” Harden said. “The weed poses a serious threat to crops.”
Benghal dayflower grows a dense stand that can smother other plants. It is a particular pest of row crops like soybeans, peanuts and corn.
That’s a special concern in South Carolina, where row crops are a significant part of the economy. Soybeans, grown on 370,000 acres in the state, generated $182 million at harvest last year. Peanuts earned another $138 million.
“Benghal dayflower is a significant problem in round-up ready crops because it is tolerant to many herbicides, including glyphosate,” Harden said. “In Georgia, it’s caused a lot of problems on soybeans and cotton. That’s where the weed is typically found and that’s where we’ve been looking.”
The occurrence in Beaufort was detected by a landscaper who reported it to Clemson Extension agent Laura Lee Rose. A Clemson lab confirmed the find.
“There were a number of small plants. It was an early stage, we think. It appears that they all came up from seed,” Harden said. “We’re asking for the public’s help in locating Benghal dayflower plants. It is not always easy to identify Benghal dayflower because there are native dayflower species that look similar.”
Harden said regulators are investigating the source of the seed and will devise a plan to prevent its spread.
This is the first time the weed has been found in the state outside of a plant nursery. Regulators found Benghal dayflower in 2005 in a container with a liriope at a South Carolina nursery, where it was destroyed.
Native to tropical Asia and Africa, Benghal dayflower was discovered in Florida in 1928 and earned its place on the Federal Noxious Weed List in 1983. It has spread across the South from Georgia to Louisiana.
More information on Benghal dayflower is available on the Invasive Species Program page on the Department of Plant Industry website.