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African guinea grass growing in Texas harms ecosystem at Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve

Guinea grass causing major problems for plants and animals
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Posted at 5:12 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 07:45:48-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — You might have seen some tall grass growing in your backyard or around the Coastal Bend. It could be the same kind of African grass, called guinea grass, that is causing major problems for the ecosystem at Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve.

“The guinea grass was brought here from Africa, and when given some support, can grow much taller than I am — six, seven, eight-foot into our canopy — so it is a constant battle out here trying to do habitat management," said Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve Manager Sara Jose.

Jose said the African guinea grass was brought over to Texas to feed cows back in the 1960’s.

“If you look at the globe, not too different from Africa as far as where we are from the equator and what our climate is like," she said. "But Texas is not crawling with wild beasts, antelope, and zebras, so its doing really well here. So well that it outcompetes everything else."

Jose said the problem with the guinea grass is it smothers other plants growing in the area and makes it harder for animals to move through the plants and trees.

“So we would like to get the guinea grass off the landscape, where we can, to give those plants we want to . . . this healthy environment, space, to grow," she said.

With a maintenance staff of three covering the 162 acres, Jose said getting volunteers to help them makes a big difference.

“I honestly thought that guinea grass was just part of South Texas, in general, because you see it everywhere," said volunteer Leah Swinney. "I really didn’t know that it was such an evasive species, and how much harm it can cause to the native plants around here."

Swinney, who volunteered through the Corpus Christi American Meteorology Society club at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said they removed about 14 bags of guinea grass

“So we were out there for a few hours, and it was actually kind of refreshing in a way," she said. "Just cleaning up, doing some work, and just kind of helping out."

If you would like to volunteer contact: Lauren Piorkowski at LaurenP@cctexas.com