Invasion of the Landscape Snatchers

The Invasion of the Landscape Snatchers

“It started – for me, it started last Thursday, in response to an urgent message from my nurse, I hurried home from a medical convention I’d been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn’t. Something evil had taken possession of the town.” This is from the opening scene of 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In the film (and book), alien spores populate a city in California. The spores create large seed pods that replace humans with an emotionless duplicate. While watching the film, as a plant nerd, all I could think about are invasive plants. Plants coming into our natural areas and landscapes replace natural areas with sterile, environmentally devastating consequences. It is the invasion of the landscape snatchers.

Movie poster for 1956's Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Movie poster for 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The movie was remade in 1978.
Florida’s Landscape Snatchers

Therefore, it started – for me, it started last week. While perusing social media recently, I noticed something. A beautiful, purple flower with the caption from the photo’s owner, stating “I have plenty to share, send me a message and you can come by to pick some up for your garden.” The post had multiple comments from others expressing their interest in picking up their own purple flower. The plant had a beautiful flower, but it, unfortunately, was an invasive plant – Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex). Unbeknownst to the post’s author, they were openly sharing an incredibly invasive plant with their neighbors. Luckily, a few people quickly noted it was an invasive plant and should not be shared and should be removed.

For this year’s spooky October – let’s explore different invasive plants that are invading our landscapes! It’s the Invasion of the Landscape Snatchers blog series!!! So look out!

Body Snatchers Image from 1978 remake
Look out for the invasive plants in your landscapes! This image is from the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.


What’s an Invasive Plant?

Hundreds of Florida’s plants earned the invasive classification. Invasive plants are classified because they meet three standard requirements (Check out the cool, new EDIS publication).

  1. They are non-native
  2. The species has been introduced either intentionally or unintentionally
  3. The species causes, or is likely to cause, environmental harm, economic harm, and/or harm to humans.

Common examples of invasive plant species include Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) and Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia). The State of Florida classifies Melaleuca and Air Potato as noxious weeds and earned a “prohibited” status. Therefore, the prohibited status makes them illegal to buy, sell, trade, or transport. Both plants were introduced for ornamental or agricultural reasons. After an introduction, the plants began to spread and take over natural ecosystems and displacing natural floral and fauna. Despite the noxious weed designation, there are still plenty of invasive plants without that designation that can be bought, sold, traded, etc. that impact our environment.

Common Landscape Invasives

Throughout our ornamental landscapes, we still see plenty of invasive plants being sold, bought, traded, and planted. Some common invasive plants within our landscapes include Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex), Mother of Millions (Kalanchoe x houghtonii), the non-native Lantana (Lantana camara), and Tuberous Sword Fern/Boston Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia). Unfortunately, as I tour around Nassau County and northeast Florida, these and many other invasive plants are all over.

Natural Area Invasive Plants

Within our natural areas, we find a whole slew of invasive plants because many of our invasive species escaped into the natural areas. Many invasive species established themselves within natural areas. This means the invasive plants are maintaining a self-sustaining population within our environments without human assistance. Some of the common established plants within our natural environments include the plants listed above and Coral Ardisia (Ardisia crenulata), Nandina (Nandina domestica), Mimosa Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin), and Wild Taro (Colocasia esculenta).

Spread Knowledge, Not Invasives

Ultimately, raising awareness of invasive pests and communicating with others is the first step in stopping the spread of invasive plants. Properly identifying invasive plants within your landscape or natural area is the first step in control and management. Therefore, there are two important web pages worth sharing. University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants provides the science-based integrated pest management controls for many invasive species. In addition, you may check out UF’s Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Natural Areas web page to learn about a plant’s invasive status. You can search a vast database of assessed plant material to learn about its invasive status, which includes links to the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants page.

Consider the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program’s first principle, “Right Plant, Right Place,” when thinking about your landscape plants. The principle recommends that we select plants the match the environmental conditions we are planting. In addition, we should not include any invasive species within our landscapes. Always compare the scientific names of plants (usually written in italics) and not the common names when making a decision. A specific plant can have multiple common names, but the scientific name never changes. In addition, when in doubt, feel free to reach out to your county extension office.

In Conclusion

Next time you find yourself perusing social media and someone wants to give away free plants, make sure it is not an invasive species. We’re in the midst of the invasion of the landscape snatchers. Therefore, by stopping and controlling the spread of invasive species throughout our landscapes and natural areas, we can preserve and protect the vital environmental communities of Florida that we love.

More Information:
Blog Series

Like what you are reading? Therefore, check out all the published blogs in this series.

Or quickly jump to the individual blogs in the series:

Invasion of the Landscape Snatchers

Lantana (Lantana camara)

Tuberous Sword Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia)

Coral Ardisia (Ardisia crenata)

Wild Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

Mexican Petunia (Ruellia simplex)

Mother of Millions (Kalanchoe x houghtonii)

Mimosa Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin)

Nandina (Nandina domestica)

Social Media Pages:
Other Media Pages

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Posted: October 1, 2021

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, Invasive Species, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Established, FFL, Florida-Friendly, Florida-Friendly Landscapes, Horticulture, IFAS Assessment, Invasion Of The Landscape Snatchers, Invasive Species, Invasives, Non-native, Plants

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