WHAT IS A NON-NATIVE (EXOTIC), INVASIVE PLANT?
Non-native invasive plants are essentially
"Weeds in the Woods" (or in other natural
areas). The two characteristics
which are not originally from Florida/United
States, these plants are often introduced
intentionally or accidentally by human activity.
The most common sources of plant introduction in
Florida are: import for ornamental/horticultural
purposes, introduction for agricultural purposes
(forage, erosion control, etc.), and accidental
introduction. Approximately 1/3 of the plant
species growing on their own without cultivation
in Florida are non-native.
plants are plants which escape cultivation,
become established in a forest or natural area,
and start expanding and reproducing on their
own. Once established, these plants often alter
native plant communities, out-compete and kill
native species, or otherwise affect natural
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THESE PLANTS?
There are many reasons to be concerned about the
expanding problem of invasive species. Whether
your primary interest in forestry is timber
production, aesthetics, recreation, wildlife, or
a combination of many benefits, all aspects of
forest management can be affected by these plant
invasions. For example, approximately 46% of the
federally listed threatened and endangered
species in the United States are considered to
be imperiled in part due to impacts of invasive
species. Economists have estimated that across
the globe, $3-5 trillion may be lost annually to
the impacts and management of invasive species
(this figure includes impacts by introduced
plants and animals, diseases, agricultural
weeds, and others).
Several of these species
either possess the potential to, or have already
begun impacting various forest product
industries. An established example is that of
Kudzu, which infests an estimated 7 million
acres in the southeast, and costs approximately
$500 million dollars in lost farm and timber
production annually. The most recent example of
this is the impact the Japanese climbing fern
infestations have begun to have on the pine
straw production industry in Florida. Pine straw
producers have had to abandon leased pine stands
in some cases where the Japanese climbing fern
infestation made harvest of a clean and legally
saleable product impossible.
As a state, Florida is at a high risk for
invasion for many reasons. Our subtropical
climate, the number and importance of our
shipping ports, the extent and importance of the
plant-based industries in the state, and the
highly transitional population, couple with
other factors to facilitate introduction, escape
and spread of these problem plants. In Florida,
approximately $30 million taxpayer dollars are
spent annually on invasive plant management on
natural areas and waterways.
HOW DO THESE PLANTS GET TO MY FOREST?
Invasive plants are spread in many ways:
Humans through movement of equipment, and/or
soil contaminated with seeds or roots
Wildlife (especially deer & birds)
Water and wind
Forest managers need to be aware of how our
actions can promote the spread of these plants.
Many forestry techniques involve soil
disturbance (e.g.. harvesting, site prep,
planting) and alteration of the canopy (e.g..
harvesting) which affects sunlight and water
penetration to the soil level, these activities
may aid in the introduction or spread of these
species on your property.