Exotics and Invasives in Florida
Plants which are not native to a specific area are called exotics. Being exotic does not necessarily mean beautiful or unusual, and certainly does not mean desirable.
In Florida, over 900 exotic plant species have been introduced to beautify developments. They aggressively compete with Florida native plants and change the community for birds, insects and other native species.
Exotic plants in your landscape can have water and soil requirements that are different from the natural conditions in your yard. This is why we have sprinkler systems to water regularly and why we have to fertilize our lawn regularly.
Invasive plants are those which will take over an area forcing out other plant species. They can be either a native plant or an exotic plant.
The Florida Gardener's Book of Lists by Lois Trigg Chaplin and Monica Moran Brandies has three interesting invasive lists:
- Trees that reseed madly or are otherwise invasive
- Shrubs that can be invasive
- Invasive perennials
A good example of an exotic plant which is also invasive is the Kudzu Vine (Pueraria lobata). This vine can turn a small forested area into a (superficially green) desert with nothing left for native wildlife.
Two websites which may be helpful for Florida gardeners:
Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council - www.fleppc.org
Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants - http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu
Books in our library which may be helpful:
Native Florida Plants by Robert G. Haehle & Joan Brookwell
Landscaping for Florida's Wildlife by Joe Schaefer & George Tanner