Native plants originate from a specific geographic area and occur there naturally. These plants play an important role in the ecosystem by providing habitat for wildlife, protecting shorelines from erosion, and improving water quality. Keeping the ecosystem ‘in balance’ so to speak.
Pictured: Sagittaria lancifolia (Duck potato)
Nonnative plants were moved to other areas where they do not occur naturally, either on purpose or by accident.
We move plants from one location to another for many reasons including food for ourselves and for livestock, or because of the plant’s unusual or beautiful appearance. Most crops grown in the United States were brought from other continents. Examples include wheat from Asia, oats from Europe, and potatoes from South America. Water hyacinth is an example of a plant that was introduced to the United States because of its decorative qualities.
Pictured: Citrus spp. (common citrus tree)
Invasive plants are species that are non-native, introduced intentionally or accidentally by humans, and cause environmental and/or economic damage. Invasive plants share the following characteristics:
- They grow fast and spread across large areas.
- They reproduce in several ways including seeds, buds, fragments, and shoots from roots.
- They survive in many different temperatures, light, water, and soil conditions.
- They are difficult to control, and once established, are nearly impossible to eradicate.
Pictured: Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth)
What’s the Deal with Invasives in Florida?
The state of Florida is considered a ‘poster child for invasives’ - with its miles of coastline, fifteen ports of entry, thousands of daily visitors, and subtropical climate, many plants can survive and even thrive once they get here. Invasive plants can become problematic because they:
- Reduce desirable native plant populations and biodiversity
- Damage wildlife habitat
- Block navigation and flood control
- Prevent recreational activities (boating, fishing, swimming)
- Reduce tourism and property values
- Clog drinking, irrigation and hydroelectric power water pipes