Invasive Plants in State Parks
Based on requests from a number of state parks, we've developed a brochure template that can be used by any of the state parks for informing visitors about invasive plants. So far, we've made brochures for twenty-four parks.
See below for "generic" text that is included in these brochures or click on the pdf file to the right to see a sample hard copy.
Identifying Invasive Plants
The non-native plants in this brochure have proven to be invasive in our park (and region) and are currently being controlled by park staff, contractors and volunteers. Do you recognize any of them? Read on to learn more about these quiet invaders.
What Is An Invasive Plant?
Of the more than 4,000 plant species found in Florida, 1,300 or more are non-native* or exotic; they come from other countries or from other regions within the U.S. At least 130 of these exotic plant species are spreading rapidly throughout our natural areas. When they cause environmental or economic harm, they are considered to be invasive.
*The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council defines an exotic (non-native) species as one introduced to Florida, purposefully or accidentally, from a natural range outside of Florida. A naturalized exotic is one that is self-sustaining outside of cultivation.
So, What’s The Problem?
In their native ranges, plants generally do not become a nuisance. Today, with modern transportation, many exotic plants have caught a free ride to Florida. Once here, they are free from natural enemies that existed in their home range (animals that eat them, plant diseases, etc.), and can outgrow and replace Florida’s native plants.
When invasive plants replace native plants:
- Native plants can be permanently eliminated, diminishing Florida’s natural diversity;
- Animals that use native plants are often unable to adapt, so they may leave the area or die out;
- Invasive aquatic plants can completely fill and/or cover the water, damaging habitat and diversity.
Why Should We Care?
Invasive plants cost Floridians a lot of money; millions of taxpayer dollars are spent each year to control them. If not kept in check, invasive plants can replace Florida’s native plants (some of them endangered or threatened), be toxic to wildlife and/ or people, increase the severity of wildfires, and alter ecosystems. Because some of them are aquatic, they can also cause problems with irrigation, navigation and flood control. Boating, swimming, hiking and other uses of natural areas can also be made difficult, even dangerous, by invasive plant infestations.
Keeping Things Under Control
After much research, we know that some invasive plant species will never be eradicated in Florida; they simply reproduce too fast. That is why we strive to keep them at the lowest possible levels. Regular maintenance of invasive plants reduces overall environmental and economic damage and maintains habitat for native plants and animals.
Help Control Invasive Plants by Keeping Them Out of Your Landscape at Home
Preventing the introduction and spread of invasive plants in Florida is the most effective and least expensive means of protecting Florida’s natural habitats. Here are a few things we can all do:
- Volunteer to help remove invasive plants in your area.
- Support community efforts to ban invasive plants from newly developed landscaping.
- Ask your nursery or garden center for native and/or non-invasive plants when landscaping.
- Don’t move invasive plants to other areas and never empty your aquarium into a body of water, not even a canal.
- Avoid chopping aquatic plants with boat propellers as some plant fragments can grow into even more plants.
- Check clothing, shoes, and pets for seeds after hiking and remove them.
- Remove plant fragments from boats/trailers after use.
- Watch for and report invasive plants found in this park; note the location and tell a ranger.
- Take guided walks at state parks to learn about Florida’s native plants and animals.