With its sub-tropical climate southwest Florida rolls out the welcome mat to invasive plant and animal species from around the world. Some species fail whereas others thrive, getting out of control without the natural checks and balances found in their native lands. Despite millions of dollars spent statewide annually on removal and control efforts many species persist in natural areas in virtually any habitat. As you walk the trails keep your eyes peeled and ensure you do not help these wiley invaders spread further.
Known for its potato-like tubers and heart shaped leaves, the air-potato is one of the fastest-growing invasive plants in the Reserve. During the winter months, the plant goes into a dormant phase as the stems die back but when spring arrives the tubers resprout. It is originally from tropical Asia.
The Brazilian pepper is a large woody shrub with dark green leaves and clusters of red berries that are usually produced in winter. It is related to poison ivy and causes similar reactions in some people. It can grow to 40 feet tall and wide, and effectively crowds out native plants and reduces biodiversity.
Originally from India and tropical Asia, this gangly plant is abundant in disturbed areas. It can reach heights of about five feet, has large, lobe-shaped, hairy leaves and pretty pink flowers. Seeds are small, brown, and covered with hook-like spines that easily cling to fur and clothing for easy dispersal in new locations.
Originally from tropical Asia, the downy rose myrtle has oval-shaped hairy ("downy") leaves and rose-like pink flower. It produces a dark purple fruit with sweet, aromatic flesh. The downy rose myrtle is highly invasive and can form large, dense stands, called
monocultures, that outcompete native species for space and sunlight.
Earleaf acacia is an evergreen tree that reaches heights up to 50 feet. Leaves are blade-like, slightly curved, and 5-8 in long. Native to southeast Asia, this species was introduced to the U.S. pre-1930 and used extensively in street landscaping in southern Florida for many years. Now common in disturbed areas, it has invaded pinelands, scrub, and hammocks. Bright yellow flower stalks appear spring through fall. Seeds are dispersed by several bird species, including the introduced European starling.
Originally from India and tropical Asia, the rosary pea is a woody vine with compound leaflets made up of tiny oval-shaped leaves. Seed pods split open to reveal 3-8 shiny red and black seeds. These seeds are highly toxic to animals and people.