Contributor: Lara Colley, UF/IFAS CAIP Education Coordinator
Approximately 130 invasive plant species currently impact the state of Florida, often escaping from yard environments. An invasive species is one not native to a specific location and has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, economy or human, animal or plant health.
General characteristics of invasive plants
- Produce a large amount of seeds
- Begin producing seeds early in the growing season
- Grow rapidly
- Lack natural predators causing growth to go unchecked
- Resist management efforts
- Tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions
Ecological impacts of invasive plants
- Compete with native plants for resources
- Alter naturally occurring fire patterns
- Alter the movement of water bodies
- Change natural habitat composition
- Reduce biodiversity
- Potential to create monocultures or single organism ecosystems
- Accelerate the process of sedimentation or the settling of particles in water
Economic impacts of invasive plants
- Clog drainage canals
- Increase potential flooding
- Increase erosion
- Cost the state of Florida about $100 million a year to manage
- Reduce recreational opportunities
- Negatively impact crop production
- Reduce property values
In order to protect the great state of Florida from the threat of invasive plants, everyone must do their part. Several ways to participate are learning to recognize invasive plants impacting Florida, removing the plants from an area and preventing them from entering the environment.
One way to learn to recognize invasive plants is to take a look in the backyard and identify the plants growing in your environment. Whether native or non-native invasive plants are growing, learning to identify them correctly will help you learn about the environment you are living in. The UF/IFAS Non-Native Plant Assessment publishes a list of invasive plants focusing on their ecological impacts. The assessment will also tell you if a particular plant is safe or risky to use in your landscape. Another way to learn which plants are invasive is the 2019 List of Invasive Plant Species.
Removing non-native invasive plants from private property can reduce invasion into natural areas. In order to prevent the spread of invasive plants, do not use plants with the potential to spread into natural environments. Finally, check with a local land manager, park biologist or county extension agent to learn more about which native plants will thrive in your environment.
For more information on protecting Florida from non-native invasive plants, take a look at “Help Protect Florida’s Natural Areas from Non-native Invasive Plants”.
UF/IFAS CAIP, Turning Science Into Solutions.