Invasives 101

What is an "invasive plant"?

  • • An invasive plant is a plant that has been introduced to an area from outside its native range, either purposefully or accidentally.
  • • A naturalized plant is one that that can sustain itself outside of cultivation, outside its native range. It is still; it has not "become" native.
  • • An invasive plant is a naturalized plant that is expanding its range into natural areas and disrupting naturally occurring native plant communities.

What is a "native plant"?

  • • a Florida native plant is one whose natural range included Florida at the time of European contact (1500 AD).

So what if a plant is growing in a new place? Aren't all plants "good"?

  • • All plants make oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. That's good if you plan on breathing. However, when certain plants are introduced to a new location without the factors like severe seasonal weather, diseases or insect pests that kept them under control in their native range, they can just keep growing and reproducing, out-competing and displacing the native plants and disrupting naturally-balanced native plant communities. This reduction in biodiversity can adversely impact wildlife and alter natural processes such as fire frequency or intensity and water flow.

Are there many plant species growing wild in Florida?

  • • YES! - according to the University of South Florida, almost one-third of the plants growing wild in Florida are non-native and some of these have become serious problems.
  • • Check out here, it has photos of many plants commonly found in Florida - chances are you've seen quite a few of these plants.

Is it possible that I've seen invasive plants and didn't even realize it?

  • • YES! - Floridians are commonly surrounded by these plants, on our roads, in our backyards, and in natural areas.
  • • A naturalized plant is one that that can sustain itself outside of cultivation, outside its native range. It is still; it has not "become" native.
  • • An invasive plant is a naturalized plant that is expanding its range into natural areas and disrupting naturally occurring native plant communities.

How do invasive plants spread?

  • • Seeds from invasive plants can be spread by wind (for example microscopic spores from Old World climbing fern), by water (for example, melaleuca trees in the Everglades), or by birds or other wildlife that eat the fruit and deposit the seeds in droppings far from the original tree (for example, Brazilian pepper and carrotwood). Others spread from expanding underground root systems (for example, suckering Australian pine and erect sword fern).

So invasive plants can spread to new places. Why should I care?

  • • Control of plants in Florida's natural areas and waterways is expensive, costing taxpayers millions of dollars to control each year. By getting involved in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive plants, you will be saving yourself money.
  • • Invasive plants continue to degrade our natural areas and impact associated wildlife habitat. Because some of them are aquatic, they also can impede navigation and flood control in our waters.

Wow. I never really thought about all these things before. What can I do to help?

  • • Start at home. Many invasive plants are unknowingly planted and maintained by homeowners as landscaping material. Attractive, hardy, native species and/or non-invasive plants are commercially available at nurseries or garden centers. Identify the plants in your yard, remove the invasives (or at least remove any fruits) and install appropriate native plants instead. And never empty your aquarium into a lake or river.
  • • Contact your local, state or federal government representatives and let them know you are concerned about invasive plant impacts.
  • • Find out about existing programs, such as your local Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) and volunteer. Find your local CISMA.
  • Spread the word!