Invasive Plants

Increasing urbanization and demand for agricultural lands has led to the rapid disappearance of native habitats. Many areas are designating areas to preserve and protect native habitats in orter to protect native plant and animal species. Non-native plants are the weeds of the wild. They are not associated with the environment on a natural basis, but become self-sustaining and spread, often at the expense of the natural plant species. In the 1970’s, federal and state governments began to take steps to prevent the spread of plants that pose a threat to agriculture and the navigation of the nation’s waterways. A list of the weeds that are regulated by the laws that restrict the ownership or transport of invasive plants can be found on the United States Department of Agriculture’s website at Most states have departments that regulate environmental protection and may provide additional lists of prohibited plants. For example, in Florida, the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (EPPC) lists plants that are the biggest threat to native Florida habitats.

Some of the plants on the Category 1 list are: cogongrass, Brazilian pepper trees, the Australian pine and old world climbing fern. Cogongrass has invaded many southeastern states and can be found in rivers, swamps, grasslands and sand dunes. The Brazilian pepper tree was once considered a decorative tree for landscaping purposes. It now invades mangrove forests and hardwood hammocks. The Australian pine is tolerant of salt water and has invaded sand dunes and pine forests, blocking the native plants from sunlight. The Old World climbing vine is one of the most aggressive of the invasive plants on the Category 1 list from the EPPC. It suffocates the trees it blankets and spreads wildfires. You can help prevent the spread of invasive plant species by educating yourself about the non-native plants. Do not use these plants when landscaping your house or planting aquatic plants in water features or aquariums.

Even though some of these plants may be sold commercially for residential use, don’t assume that you can contain the non-native plant on your property. Seeds and spores are easily spread by the wind, birds, animals and the disposal of yard waste. If you have identified a non-native plant on your property, remove it completely. Use a herbicide on the tree trunk or roots to ensure that it doesn’t return. By doing your part to help keep invasive plant species at bay, you will help preserve native habitats for future generations.