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Most UN-Wanted: Florida's Top Ten Invasive Plants
Florida's Invasive Plant Hit List
(Reprinted courtesy of Florida Wildlife magazine)
Once sold as a landscape ornamental, it now covers more than 700,000 acres in central and south Florida. Thrives in areas disturbed by dredging and filling. Brazilian Pepper is in the same family as poison oak. Melaleuca Tree Introduced to Florida in 1906 and planted as windbreaks, it has invaded 1.5 million acres and is taking over an additional 50 acres per day. It produces little of use to wildlife.
A pernicious, pesky, smelly plant now in 18 counties - including Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee. It smothers underbrush and strangles trees.
Tropical Soda Apple
Covers 500,000 acres of Florida pastures, roadsides, ditch banks, cultivated and and natural areas.
Found in sandhills,flatwoods, grasslands, swamps and river margins throughout the state. Its rough edges will slice the skin. Cogon grass produces chemicals that inhibit growth of other plants. Cogon grass is among the world's worst weeds. It is a serious weed of drylands in Florida, but also occurs in places that become briefly flooded. It can cover large areas. Native to the warmer regions of the Old World, it was brought into the U.S. as an experimental forage. It has spread, partially through its use as a packing material.
Cogon grass is a NON-NATIVE grass; from extensive rhizomes; stems spreading, 3-10 ft. tall; leaf blades hairy at base, tapering to narrow base, midvein off-center, margins sharp; ligule brown, papery; sheaths smooth to hairy; inflorescence showy white, cylindrical, plume-like, hairy; flowers hairy.
Grows in pine forests, sandy shores and dunes, where its dense shade and chemicals from leaf litter displace native vegetation. Sea turtles can become entangled and trapped in the trees' exposed roots.
Water Hyacinth and Hydrilla
Hydrilla has invaded about 40 percent of the state's rivers and lakes, choking entire waterways and clogging boat propellers. Florida officials estimate they will spend $100 million in a decade to control hydrilla and water hyacinths.
Sometimes called the popcorn tree, it first arrived in Florida in the late 1700s. Ben Franklin was a fan. It thrives in undisturbed areas such as canopy forests, bottomland hardwood forests, lake shores and floating islands.
A stubborn vine that climbs high into tree canopies and engulfs surrounding vegetation. Potatoes produced by the vine are not edible.
Introduced in Florida in the 1920s, it can grow 60 feet annually. It infests 7 million acres throughout the southeastern United States. Kudzu forms a dense thicket of little use to wildlife and crowds out other plants, disrupting the ecosystem.