Invasive Plants in Florida

Every continent on Earth is subject to invasive species, both plants and animals, which arrived purposely or by chance. Many landscape plants have been introduced to Florida and other states because they were considered attractive or useful for providing shade or erosion. When an introduced species escapes cultivation and spreads without human help, it can choke out habitats that host native plants, agricultural, commercial, residential and other areas. We call many invasive plants "weeds."

Invasive Aquatic Plants

Florida is the home of many creeks, swamps and other wetland areas. Approximately 130 species of introduced plants are considered invasive throughout Florida and are causing economic and environmental damage. Aquatic and wetland invasive plants include water hyacinth, hydrilla, wetland nightshade, East Indian hygrophila, giant salvinia, para grass, torpedo grass, water lettuce, water spinach, West Indian marsh grass and wild taro.

Invasive Trees

Introduced trees that are well adapted to their environment can infest and take over large areas. Their invasion often goes unnoticed until the problem they have created is too large and widespread to handle. Trees that have proven themselves to be invasive in Florida include Chinese tallow, tea tree (Melaleuca), Brazilian pepper tree, Australian pine, Chinaberry, earleaf acacia, carrotwood, laurel fig, Java plum, camphor tree, guavas and mimosa tree.

Invasive Shrubs

More invasive shrubs live in Florida than invasive trees. Among the shrubs that are classified invasive are nandina, Chinese ligustrum, Surinam cherry, shoebutton ardisia, coral ardisia, lantana, half-flower, downy rose myrtle and day jessamine.

Invasive Vines

Vines can choke the plants they climb, and Florida's subtropical climate is ideal for many species of introduced vines that have widely spread, covering homes, trees and other vegetation. Some serious non-native vines in Florida are the kudzu, air potato, Chinese wisteria, skunk vine, rosary pea, cat's claw vine, Japanese honeysuckle, gold coast jasmine, Brazilian jasmine, arrowhead vine and sewer vine.

Ferns and Grasses

Certain introduced ferns and grasses also have become invasive in parts of Florida. Included in the list of ferns that are problematic are the old world climbing fern, Japanese climbing fern, Boston fern, incised halberd fern and water fern. Invasive grasses include cogon grass, Burma reed or silk reed, elephant grass, giant reed, Johnson grass and West Indian marsh weed.

Keywords: Florida plants, invasive species, kudzu melaleuca

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, and She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.