Invasive exotic species know no boundaries

February 27, 2012

Chinaberry is one of the many invasive species in Northwest Florida.

Protect our environment and help eradicate invasive plants

Celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW), February 26 through March 3, by learning about alien plant and animal species whose introduction causes economic, environmental and harm to human health.

Here are a few things you can do to help stop the spread of invasive species.

Do some research. Learn what’s invasive in your city, region or state.  Identify which species might be growing in your backyard or neighborhood.  Check your own landscape, vacant lots, roadsides, wetlands, ponds and lakes.  Early detection is crucial to stopping the spread of invasive species.  Visit the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants website at to view recognition cards of invasive species you should know.

Join in an eradication effort.  Many parks and nature reserves manually remove invasive plants with the help of local volunteers.  These outings are a great way to gain the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to protect your natural heritage.

Become a “citizen scientist.”  Spending time outdoors can be a very rewarding way to combat invasive species.  Whether you are collecting scientific data to be used by local, state, or national agencies and organizations or actually helping get rid of invasive plants and animals, you will be able to see up close and personal the impacts of invasive species and the results of your efforts.  Visit Citizen Science Central at to learn more.

Spend an afternoon at a botanic garden, park or natural area and familiarize yourself with the native flora and fauna in your area.   There are many field guides available that will help you learn native plants. The book Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants is a guide that presents native plant species that are readily available in retail and wholesale outlets across the state. Each of the 200 plants detailed in the book were selected for their availability, general hardiness, popularity, and ease of use in both commercial and residential landscapes.

Replace your invasive landscape plants with native alternatives.  Unlike many non-native plants, native plants are hardy, less susceptible to pests and diseases and unlikely to escape to become invasive.  The great variety of plants native to any region give gardeners options that work well in any type of garden design.  Because maintaining native plants requires less work, they provide excellent choices for large, commercial landscapes as well as residential gardens.

One of the most effective ways to manage invasive species is for recreationalists such as boaters, fishermen, pet owners, and gardeners to avoid being dispersal agents.  Here are some everyday things you can do to meet the invasive species challenge.

  • Boaters should clean, drain, and dry your boat trailer and gear every time you leave a body of water.
  • Pet owners should not release undesirable pets or fish species into the environment.  Visit to learn more.
  • Gardeners should be plant wise.  Not all non-native species are bad, but some plants in your garden might be harmful invaders that will make their way into natural areas.  Visit the Florida-friendly plant database at .

Invasive species are not only problematic, they are costly to remove and control.  Think locally and act neighborly by telling your friends, family, neighbors and others about invasive species.

Theresa Friday is the Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County.  The use of trade names, if used in this article, is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the product name(s) and does not signify that they are approved to the exclusion of others.

For additional information about all of the county extension services and other articles of interest go to: