The IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Assessment) was developed by the UF/IFAS Invasive Plants Working Group so that Extension faculty could provide consistent recommendations concerning the use of non-native plants. The Assessment and the Working Group were created in response to the growing awareness of the threat posed (especially to threatened and endangered species) by non-native invasive species. Learn more about how and why the IFAS Assessment was developed.
The process by which recommendations are derived is well-documented and open to review. When plant species are assessed, data are collected from all available resources by designated IFAS staff. The IFAS Assessment system is typically applied to species in each of three climate zones in Florida: north, central, and south. The IFAS Assessment has three components. The main one is the Status Assessment and from this the use of the Predictive Tool or Infraspecific Taxon Protocol may be directed.
If a species is already prohibited by state or federal law no further assessment is needed because the species cannot be recommended for use. All other species are initially evaluated using the Status Assessment and as this is completed, information is organized to provide Results that describe the status of the species for four specific topics:
- Ecological impacts
- Potential for expanded distribution in Florida
- Management difficulty
- Economic value
Such Results are reported as scores (for Ecological impacts and Management difficulty) or as a low or high status (for Potential for expanded
distribution in Florida and Economic value). For examples of results, click on the “Results Table” link in the sidebar.
From these Results, Conclusions are derived which specify what recommendations can be made about each species. These Conclusions are:
- Not considered a problem species at this time and may be recommended by IFAS faculty (reassess in 10 years)
- Caution – may be recommended by IFAS faculty but manage to prevent escape (reassess in 2 years)
- Invasive and not recommended by IFAS faculty except for any ‘specified and limited’ use that has been approved by the IFAS Invasive Plants Working Group (reassess in 2 years)
- Invasive and not recommended by IFAS faculty (reassess in 10 years)
If the species has not yet been assessed, the Conclusion is essentially that for a non-invasive species (Not yet assessed: not considered a problem species at this time and may be recommended by IFAS faculty). However, this Conclusion may be changed upon assessment; please check for the latest updates in the Conclusions Tables (link in the sidebar).
If species have not escaped into Florida’s natural areas but are either recent arrivals to the state or are known to cause problems in areas with similar habitats and climate to Florida, the Status Assessment directs the use of a predictive tool. The Australian Weed Risk Assessment system has been adapted for use in Florida to complete the assessment of such species (“The Predictive Tool” link in the sidebar).
The Status Assessment is generally applied at the species level. It is only applied independently to infraspecific taxa (e.g., cultivars, varieties, or sub-species) if these taxa can be clearly distinguished in the field and are not likely to revert. (Throughout the Status Assessment, reference to the species under consideration could also refer to such distinct infraspecific taxa). Other infraspecific taxa may be proposed for assessment using the Infraspecific Taxon Protocol (link in the sidebar). This protocol uses the same conclusions as the Status Assessment so even though they are derived differently, the conclusions for these infraspecific taxa are reported in the Conclusions Tables with those for all species evaluated using the Status Assessment.