Exotic plants are not welcome in the Everglades. The plants are not native to the area and are considered invasive, causing the depletion of the native plants that the Everglades needs to survive. The staff of Everglades National Park is working to remove as many of the exotic plants as possible to avoid the destruction of more native plants and the environment for the animals that call the Everglades home. These plants are banned from certain areas. Check with local authorities before purchasing any.
Australian pine ( Casuarina equisetifolia) is also known as horsetail casuarina, she-oak, horsetail tree, beefwood and Polynesian ironwood. The tree grows from 100 to 150 feet tall with grey-green twigs that resemble pine needles and scale-like leaves growing close to the branches. Male flowers grow in thin clusters at the tips of the twigs. Female flowers grow in round clusters attached to the branchlets and are followed by small fruits that resemble a pine cone. Australian pine does well in most types of soil but prefers sand. The tree needs full sun.
Australian pine is an aggressively growing tree with deep roots that kills other plants by smothering them in a thick blanket of fallen needles. Groups of the trees displace native plants that help control erosion, and they also eradicate wildlife habitats, making it impossible for some species to survive.
Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) is also known as Florida holly, Christmas berry and pepper tree. The plant is native to Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil and was introduced to the Florida landscape in the 1840s and has become invasive to the point where it has killed off some species of endangered plants. Brazilian pepper is an evergreen shrub or tree that grows as tall as 30 feet with an equal spread. Feather-like leaves grow from 5 to 8 inches long. Small white flowers bloom in the summer and fall growing in 6-inch-long clusters. The flowers are followed by bright-red berries that last through the winter. The plant prefers full sun and moist soils.
Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) is also known as cajeput, punk tree and white bottlebrush tree. The plant is an evergreen tree that grows from 40 to 100 feet tall. Melaleuca is native to eastern Australia (near the coast) and New Guinea and is considered a severe threat to the native plants in the Everglades and the rest of Florida. The tree produces lance-shaped leaves that grow up to 4 inches long and cream-colored flowers growing in cylindrical clusters up to 6 inches long. The flowers are followed by clusters of woody seed capsules. Melaleuca likes full sun and a moist to wet soil. Melaleuca spreads rapidly through the native plant areas, turning them into thick, impenetrable thickets, which can quickly smother smaller native plants. A single tree has the capacity to produce 1 million seeds in a single year.
Latherleaf (Columbrina asiatica) is a bush that sends out spreading branches. The plant produces shiny, oval, dark-green leaves and small green-white flowers that are followed by green or orange fruit that turns brown when ripe. The spreading branches quickly overcome and smother the native plants. The plant invades the coastal beaches, estuaries and forests. The seeds are dispersed by tides and storms that carry them far and wide, depositing the seeds in new areas.
Old World Climbing Fern
Old world climbing fern, (Lygodium microphyllum) is a vine that features compound leaves made up of triangular-shaped leaflets growing on branches from 2 to 5 inches long. The plant does not reproduce by seeds. Spores grow on the back of the leaves and are spread by the wind. Old world climbing fern has a dense root system that changes the flow of the water in streams and wetlands, directing it away from where it is needed. The plant also forms a dense cover that smothers other plants and deprives them of needed sunlight.
Seaside mahoe (Thespesia populnea) is a tree that grows up to 50 feet tall with multiple trunks, broad, heart-shaped leaves and yellow flowers that resemble a hibiscus and turn pink then red. The flowers are followed by a brown seed capsule. The tree has large leaves that produce dense shade, blotting out the sunshine for the native plants. The seeds float on water and the currents deposit them miles from the parent plants.