Native to: Tropical Asia
Latherleaf is thought to have been introduced into Jamaica in the 1850s for use as a medicinal plant, source of soap and as a fish poison. The seeds of latherleaf are salt tolerant and are believed to have been introduced into Florida via ocean currents. Latherleaf can now be found aggressively growing in coastal hammocks, tidal marshes, buttonwood and mangrove forests from Martin county to the southern peninsula of Florida.
Latherleaf is a highly invasive shrub species affecting coastal habitats. In areas with full sunlight it grows rapidly and aggressively, monopolizing resources and space and thus outcompeting native vegetation. Latherleaf spreads into relatively undisturbed natural areas by seeds which are dispersed by ocean currents and tides, as well as by birds. Additionally, latherleaf has several biological characteristics which enable it to compete agressively. It forms adventitious roots from branches that come into contact with soil and it vigorously resprouts from cut stems.
Latherleaf forms thick mats, growing over and shading out native vegetation. It also threatens a number of rare, listed native plant species.
Latherleaf is not recommended by UF/IFAS. Latherleaf is a prohibited plant according to the FDACS Florida Noxious Weed Index. The UF/IFAS Assessment lists latherleaf as prohibited, with high invasion risk. It is listed by FLEPPC as a Category l invasive species due to its ability to invade and displace native plant communities.
Regular monitoring and removal of plants can prevent the spread and establishment of latherleaf. Programs to educate homeowners on proper plant identification will also reduce the spread of this species.
Hand pull seedlings. Manual removal can be done on young plants in the beach dune or coastal strands where they are easily detected.
Removal by machinery is usually not practical due to latherleaf's habit of growing in and over desirable native species.
There are no known biological control agents for latherleaf. However, because other species within the genus and family are native in Florida, biocontrol efforts should be approached cautiously. There are three native species of Colubrina, all state-listed endangered species, found in South Florida: Colubrina arborescens, Colubrina cubensis and Colubrina elliptica.