With a climate in which just about any growing thing can thrive, Florida is over-run with exotic plant species. There is even a special government office to deal with the issue: The Exotic Pest Plant Council. The office's website lists 834 exotic plant species in the state. These plants come from all over the world and many are a threat to Florida's biological diversity.
Imported from Brazil in the 1800s, this plant can be found on over 700,000 acres in central and southern Florida. The Brazilian pepper is a member of the same family as poison ivy and poison oak and has the same potential to cause skin irritation. Considered invasive in Florida, it quickly invades and takes over mangrove forests and pinelands.
An Australian native, where it is the subject of conservation efforts, in Florida, the malaleuca's needles fall to the ground, inhibiting the growth of native plants. This tree is especially invasive in the Everglades where it grows into forests and prohibits any other plant life. It is considered so invasive in the Everglades that the University of Florida claims that the malaleuca threatens the "very existence of this internationally known eco-treasure." Researchers are working on ways to control the growth of malaleuca and have made a bit of headway through the use of biological controls: they have imported insects from Australia that are known to feed on the tree.
This twining vine is a member of the yam family (the air potato, however, is toxic if ingested) and can grow to over 70 feet in length. A native of Asia, it was introduced to Florida in 1905. The air potato grows very quickly, up to 8 inches in one day, and quickly climbs to the tops of trees, where it forms a blanket, completely blocking the sun for all the plants beneath it. There are several methods of control used on this invasive exotic, including the recruitment of volunteers to hand-pick the vine. Known as the air potato roundup, tons of air potato vines have been removed by this method.