Invasive species are bad news
Invasive plants are among the top threats to our natural world. They impact biodiversity almost as much as habitat loss. Each year Florida spends more than $50 million dollars to fight against the spread of plants that come from other areas of the world. Invasive plants arrive in our state in a number of ways. They come in through the shipment of goods, the aquarium trade, landscaping plants and various other means. In Florida, our top invaders include Brazilian pepper, old world climbing fern, cogongrass, hydrilla, water hyacinth and approximately 140 other species that are invasive to our state. These plants threaten the integrity of our native ecosystems.
The Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative
The UF/IFAS Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative (IPEI) is dedicated to providing education and outreach to help spread the word about invasive plants. The IPEI supports teachers by providing invasive plant education resources. Through the IPEI, teachers can request posters, games, plant identification guides, and online lessons and activities to help them teach about invasive plants. Since 2006, the IPEI has also hosted Plant Camp, a five day invasive plant “boot camp” for teachers.
This year, the IPEI is changing course and upgrading its programs to reach a larger and more diverse audience. The IPEI is looking for new ways to generate enthusiasm about invasive plants and has several exciting projects for the upcoming year. The new model includes an invasive species course for the UF/IFAS Florida Master Naturalist Program. This course will be part of the Special Topics program series and will highlight invasive plants that impact Florida.
Another goal the IPEI has for this year is to promote personal responsibility in the fight against invasive plants. It is easy to get bogged down by the devastating impacts invasive plants have on our environment, but working together against their spread will ultimately make a difference. Be vigilant! The IPEI is looking for volunteers to work in Gainesville’s natural areas. These volunteers will participate in invasive removal projects.
What can we do?
It is not possible to eliminate the introduction of all invasive species. However, individuals can still make an impact.
Here are some things you can do:
- Organize a neighborhood invasive plant pull
- Partner with your local CISMA and participate in an invasive plant removal project
- Do not use invasive plants in your landscape and remove any that take root
- Adopt Florida Friendly Landscape principles
- Strike up friendly conversations with business owners, neighbors and friends who unknowingly harbor invasive plants in their landscape
- Model good yard behavior– neighbors can be influenced by what they see in your yard
- Volunteer with your city’s parks and recreation department to remove invasive plants in public areas
- Clean your boat propellers, clothing and other equipment to ensure you do not have hitchhikers
The IPEI conducts outreach and provides education to help stem the tide of invasive species infestations. Educating the public and increasing awareness is vital to reducing the impacts of some types of invasive species. If you would like to learn more about invasive plants in general, please visit plants.ifas.ufl.edu/ or if you would like educational resources, please visit plants.ifas.ufl.edu/education. If you are interested in volunteering, please call 352-273-3665 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on social media: Facebook @UFIFASFloridaInvasive and Instagram @invasive_plant_education.