Introduced in south Florida in 1964 and widely planted as a landscape tree. It now invades mangrove forests and other coastal areas, and dense stands of seedlings and saplings have been observed along the fringes of coastal mangrove and buttonwood forests and occasionally in inland hardwood forests.
Appearance: Small, thicket-forming shrub or small deciduous tree to about 15 m (45 ft) tall; sap milky; stems hairy; grows from stolons.
Leaves: Alternate, opposite, or whorled on the same plant; simple, hairy, 6–20 cm (2.5–8 in) long, 5–15 cm (1.5–6 in) wide; toothed and sometimes lobed margins; upper surfaces of mature blades rough to the touch; petioles 4–15 cm (1.5–6 in) long.
Flowers: Female flowers form in round, hanging clusters; male flowers appear in spring and form in drooping, elongated clusters.
Fruit: Orange to red; aggregated into globular clusters, diameter 2–3 cm (0.8–1 in).
Ecological threat: FLEPPC Category I – Invasive exotics that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives. This definition does not rely on the economic or geographic range of the problem, but on the documented ecological damage caused.
Distribution: NW, NE, C, SW
Text from Invasive and Non-Native Plants You Should Know, Recognition Cards, by A. Richard and V. Ramey, 2007. UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, Publ. No. SP 431.
See more information and pictures about Santa Maria, as contained in the Langeland/Burks book, Identification & Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas.
1. Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition, by K.A. Langeland, H.M. Cherry, et al. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 257. 2008.
2. Invasive and Non-native Plants You Should Know – Recognition Cards, by A. Richard and V. Ramey. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 431. 2007.
3. Integrated Management of Nonnative Plants in Natural Areas of Florida, by K. A. Langeland, J. A. Ferrell, B. Sellers, G. E. MacDonald, and R. K. Stocker. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 242. 2011.
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