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How to get rid of invasive species in your garden

By on November 20, 2021 0

Coming from a rural area that really hasn’t grown much in the past 35 years, I’m not used to seeing a lot of invasive species around my home and farm. In fact, there was hardly any! However, we had two, probably abandoned by birds or other wildlife, and then there are two more species which I know were brought to our neighborhood because the owner of the house / land found them pretty.

Now there’s a four-lane highway passing just a mile from us that will likely bring in a lot of new invasive plants… and that is how it begins. This is the case with most parts of Florida; some invasive species start with good intention as an ornamental or are spread unknowingly by equipment. Regardless of how they start, they are a big and costly problem in Florida.

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After working in Marion Extension County for the past decade or so, I’ve become quite used to the challenges associated with trying to remove invasive species from our backyards, parks, roads, and communities. There are a lot of invasive species to eliminate, but it is not an easy task. This requires consistent management and monitoring, physical labor and removal of the plant, natural predators, and herbicide applications in most cases.

For specific advice on the proper procedures to effectively remove invasive plants, please see Integrated Management of Non-Native Plants in Florida Natural Areas at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/WG209. Invasive species have unique characteristics that make them very difficult to eradicate; they are generally very adaptable and reproduce quickly.

Asparagus aethiopicus is often the seed crawling in the shrubs and flower beds of the landscape. It is propagated by seeds dispersed by birds and vegetatively by tubers, which can germinate far from the main plant. Asparagus fern can spread along roadsides and invade secondary forest systems. Colonies displace native vegetation and prevent native species from resettling. Asparagus fern is a very invasive and shade tolerant perennial and is very difficult to control once established due to its extensive root.

Camphor trees have been in Florida since 1875. It came from China to Florida as an ornamental and for use in plantations for the production of camphor. In its area of ​​origin, it is used for oils and wood; however, it was not profitable for the Florida growers. It escaped cultivation and spread to natural areas. It is frequently seen in residential sites and poses a risk during storms due to the size and height of the tree, as the branches are generally considered to be brittle.

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Caesar herb

Caesar herb can grow up to 10 feet tall. The plant is single-stemmed, with free-branching stems that exhibit a bushy appearance. It has an attractive flower, grows quickly, and tolerates humid conditions. It invades disturbed areas, pastures, eroded areas, perennial crop plantations, hardwood forests and hammocks.

brazil pepper

brazil pepper is well known for its bright red berries and shiny serrated leaves. It is an extremely aggressive invasive plant that overshadows other plants – preventing them from growing in the same area – and does not provide good habitat for native wildlife. Brazilian pepper is in the same family as poison ivy and can cause rashes and breathing problems in some people.

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Paper mulberry

Paper mulberry is a Japanese native who grows very quickly. It was originally produced in China for the production of paper. It displaces our native plants by competition and shade and can dominate a site if left unattended. Its shallow root system makes it prone to tip over in high winds, posing a hazard to people and causing slope erosion and further degradation of an area.

chinese tallow tree

Chinese tallow was introduced to the United States in the 1700s primarily for use as an ornamental tree. It was also introduced to make soap from seed oil. It is now naturalized in many parts of the United States, including 50% of Florida counties. It was previously introduced as an ornamental due to its rapid growth rate, attractive fall color, and ability to resist pest damage. It is a small to medium-sized tree that grows to around 20 feet tall, but some specimens can reach 40 to 50 feet.

Mimosa tree

This Chinese native has been a popular landscape tree in Florida for many years due to its fragrant pink flowers and feathery fern-like foliage. If you like the look of mimosas but want a non-invasive option, try planting sweet acacia or a red bottle brush. The sweet acacia, Acacia farnesiana, is similar in appearance to the invasive mimosa, sporting delicate foliage and puffy yellow flowers. Mimosas have a large number of pods containing at least five small brown seeds, which usually persist on the plant throughout the winter. The seeds, which can remain dormant for years, are normally dispersed in the immediate vicinity of the mother plant;

Tropical soda apple

Tropical soda apple, Solanum viarum, was accidentally introduced to Florida in 1985, native to Brazil and Argentina. This plant has thorns from its roots to the tips of its leaves, making it almost impossible to pull by hand. It is on the federal noxious weed list and produces small fruits each containing 200 to 400 seeds. It is not appetizing to livestock and currently infests over a million acres of pasture in Florida. There is a viral biological control agent as well as the tropical apple beetle whose biological control effectiveness is currently being evaluated.


Cogona is on the list of the 10 best weeds in the whole world. It is aggressive and spreads from airborne seeds and highly efficient underground rhizomes. It takes advantage of sites disturbed by agricultural, forestry, forestry and construction activities. He is a master in “relocation” via contaminated logging, forestry and road construction / maintenance equipment. Once established, cogongrass is extremely difficult to control. Eradication may require three to five years of diligent and expensive herbicide treatments.

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Torpedo grass

It is one of the Florida’s most serious weeds, it is from the same family as cogongrass and Bermuda grass. It grows in or near shallow water forming monocultures where it can quickly displace native vegetation. It can also be found in taller situations and is a common problem in turf production. Native to Africa and / or Asia, it was introduced to the United States before 1876, primarily through seeds used for forage crops. By 1992, torpedo grass had invaded 70% of Florida’s public waters. The largest infestations are in Lake Okeechobee, where it displaces nearly 7,000 acres of native swamp. Torpidos management costs about $ 2 million per year in flood control systems. In Florida, the torpedo is also a major problem for the citrus and golf course industries.

There are many invasive species in our region that cost millions of dollars to manage each year. Consider helping your local park department by communicating about upcoming projects that could help us remove them from our communities.

Maxine Hunter is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Officer II and Acting Senior Gardeners Coordinator at UF / IFAS Extension in Marion County. For more information, contact the office, (352) 671-8400. Extension service is at 2232 NE Jacksonville Rd. Ocala, FL 34470.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: 10 most common invasive species in your garden, and how to get rid of them for good!

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