In 2015, Hernando County updated its Noxious Plant Control ordinance to require removal of lead tree (Leucaena leucocephala) and Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolia) within the county. These invasive species can be detrimental to the growth of native vegetation. To date, the County has removed 4,367 lead trees and 1,212 Brazilian pepper trees; additional removals are scheduled to take place in the future. Unfortunately, removing these trees from coastal areas can lead to erosion and shoreline degradation. Prompt reestablishment of native vegetation is needed at these removal sites to restore important ecosystem services such as storm protection, pollution filtration, and habitat for various wildlife species.
In response, Florida Sea Grant and UF/IFAS Extension partnered with Hernando High School to grow native coastal vegetation for the County’s designated removal sites. Throughout the school year, agricultural students at Hernando High will grow raise and propagate plants in their greenhouse. These plants will then be incorporated to create ten vegetated buffers at the designated County removal sites and help prevent additional erosion from occurring. By participating in hands-on-habitat restoration activities, students will understand the value of maintaining a healthy environment and learn the skills needed to properly operate and sustain the greenhouse nursery.
Support for this project was provided by the Future Farmers of America Living to Serve grant and Cemex Brooksville.