Officials conduct search for invasive weed discovered in Beaufort

By Tom Hallman

Benghali dayflowerDon’t let the pretty flower fool you: Benghal dayflower has a nasty tendency to infest important crops.

Officials with the Department of Plant Industry confirmed the discovery of Benghal dayflower for the first time in South Carolina – nestled in a Beaufort homeowner’s yard – leading them to conduct a house-to-house survey for the weed in November, concentrating their search in waterfront neighborhoods where the first sightings were made.

“We’ve been looking for it for years,” said Christel Harden, 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.

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.

This is the first time the weed has been found in the state outside of a plant nursery. Regulators found Benghal dayflower in a container with a liriope at a South Carolina nursery in 2005, where it was destroyed.

Native to tropical Asia and Africa, Benghal dayflower was discovered 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.

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