One yard and one plant at a time, Clemson University officials are checking Beaufort backyards for an invasive weed that was unexpectedly discovered in The Bluff neighborhood this month.
Benghal dayflower was classified as a federal noxious weed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1983. The designation means a plant is harmful to agriculture, horticulture, natural habitats, humans or livestock.
The Clemson University Department of Plant Industry is sending people to homes and asking permission to look for the weed on properties along The Bluff, Bay Street and Ribaut Road, according to Laura Lee Rose of Clemson's Cooperative Extension Service office in Beaufort. The survey is expected to take most of the week.
The search could broaden if more plants are discovered, but for now, the survey is expected to be confined to areas near where the Benghal dayflower was found.
The weeds can be irradicated with chemical applications, according to Stephen Compton, a Clemson regulatory agent.
A local botanist recently spotted the Benghal dayflower on private property in Beaufort and immediately alerted authorities. Rose said the weed is known to infest soybeans and other crops.
"Because it's an agricultural weed, we wouldn't expect to find it there," she said. "The soil may have been brought in from somewhere else."
It could be a localized, one-time incident, Rose said, but that won't be known until the investigation is finished.
The last time the weed was found in South Carolina was about 2005, in a nursery in Columbia, she said.
When found in fields, the Benghal dayflower is usually in a large mass, but the specimen in Beaufort was a small plant, said Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program coordinator Sherry Aultman. That makes it more difficult to spot.
The plant is less of a hazard for backyard gardens than it would be for a field of crops, but she said the key is to make sure it does not spread. It can quickly take over a field and harm other plants.
Clemson officials will not go onto private property without permission, Rose said. They will have badges, clearly identify themselves and will be driving state vehicles.
Also known as the tropical spiderwort, the weed's scientific name is commelina benghalensis. It can creep along the ground or grow upright. The flower has two large blue petals and one smaller white petal.
The most distinguishing difference between the Benghal dayflower and native species are small, white, round flowers that grow underground and small red hairs where the alternating, oval leaves join. The leaves are also more round than those of the native species.
Seen this weed?
Video: Clemson researchers look for invasive week in BeaufortVideo by Delayna Earley
Document: Clemson brochure on Benghal dayflower
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.