Non-native and Invasive Species

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The terms non-native and exotic are often confused. These two terms can be interchangeable when referring to a species that is not indigenous or native to a particular area. An invasive species is any species of plants, animals, or other living organisms that do not naturally occur (non-native) in a specific area and causes harm environmentally, economically, or to human health. Invasive species can be either introduced intentionally or accidentally. They have a tendency of spreading rather quickly, establishing themselves well within their new surroundings. Invasive species can easily disrupt the growth and survival of native species, causing detrimental consequences.

  • Australian Pine

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    Possession of Casuarina species with the intent to sell or plant, without special permit, is illegal in the state of Florida. As its name suggests, Australian pine is a tropical evergreen that originates from Australia, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. However, it is an angiosperm, not a conifer. This species thrives in disturbed area and its resistance to salt-water spray has allowed Australian pine to occupy thousands of acres of coastal Florida. It also invades hammocks and tree island communities in the Everglades. Australian pine can grow up to 150 feet tall. However, it will often topple during high winds. Due to its dense leaf litter, Australian pine displaces native plant communities and critical habitat for threatened and endangered species in the Everglades and South Florida. (FWS)

    Invasive Plants-Australian Pine. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2015. Web. 8 June 2015. Retrieved from http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/invasive-plants/weed-alerts/australian-pine/

  • Brazilian Pepper

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    Schinus terebinthifolius, known commonly as Brazilian pepper-tree, was originally brought to the United States in the 1800s for decorative purposes. Due to its red berries and dark green leaves, it is often used as Christmas ornamentation. As the name suggests, this plant originates from South America, particularly Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. It is in the same family as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Therefore, people with allergies to these plants or with sensitive skin might also experience reactions to Brazilian pepper. Like many invasive plants, Brazilian pepper thrives in disturbed areas and is known to invade hammocks, pine forests and mangroves throughout Florida. A limiting factor to its range is the plant’s sensitivity to cold. (IFAS)

    Brazilian pepper-tree. University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, IFAS, 2014. Web. 8 June 2015. Retrieved from http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/405

  • Brown Anole

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    Brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) are native to Cuba and the Bahamas, first arriving in the Florida Keys in the late 1880s. Since that time they have established themselves throughout the Florida and into Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Their expansion is somewhat limited by cold winters but enough of the population continues to survive and maintain a constant presence. Brown anoles are primarily ground dwelling, remaining low on vegetation such as trees and shrubs. They are responsible for decreased populations of the native, primarily arboreal, green anole through predation and by displacing green anoles to the higher areas of trees.

    Non-natives-Brown Anole. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2015. Web. 8 June 2015. Retrieved from http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/reptiles/brown-anole/

  • Cuban Tree Frog

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    Cuban treefrogs (Osteopilus Septentrionalis) are a large mesophytic forest-dwelling species of hylide originating from the West Indies. They range in color and pattern and may be tan, grey, brown or olive green. Cuban treefrogs are distinguishable from native treefrog species by their wartier skin and much larger toe pads. Due to aggressive breeding and predation of native species, such as green and squirrel treefrogs, they interfere with the ecology of native species of tree frogs. They are common throughout South Florida. In the northern limits of their range, Cuban treefrogs die during freezes. However, despite this natural barrier, Cuban treefrog populations rebound rapidly. They were first identified in the United States in Miami in 1952. Cuban treefrogs can be found in wooded areas but thrive in human-altered environments such as gardens, nurseries and citrus groves.

    Non-natives-Cuban Treefrog. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2015. Web. 8 June 2015. Retrieved from http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/amphibians/cuban-treefrog/

  • Marine Toad (Cane Toad)

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    Cane toads (Bufo marinus) are a highly invasive species of toad that predates on other frogs and toads. They are the largest toad in Florida. Originally introduced into the United States cane fields as a means to manage pests by eating “white grub” larvae, cane toads later became established in the U.S. through accidental and intentional releases during the 1950s and 1960s. The cane toad secretes a toxic milky substance from parotoid glands on the back of its head and ears. This milky substance may burn eyes and irritate skin and is poisonous to household pets.

    Giant Toad Bufo marinus. University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Web. 8 June 2015. Retrieved from http://www.wec.ufl.edu/extension/wildlife_info/frogstoads/bufo_marinus.php

  • Melaleuca

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    Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) is an invasive exotic tree that requires repeated treatments in order to prevent rapid expansion that deteriorates Refuge habitats by transforming wet prairies or sawgrass ridges into dense monotypic forests. The shift from relatively open wetlands to dense monoculture degrades habitat suitability for all trust species, including protected species such as wading birds and snail kites. Melaleuca is highly flammable and poses a fire threat to the areas it covers, costing millions of dollars annually for its control. Native to New Guinea and Australia, melaleuca trees were planted in Florida in the early 1900s to drain the Everglades and to transform swamps into harvestable forests. Melaleuca was also planted to aid in flood control by protecting levees. It is currently one of the most costly invasive species in the Everglades.

  • Non-native Apple Snail

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    Pomacea insularum is the most common of four non-native apple snails found in Florida. This non-native species originated in South America and is also known as the Island apple snail. Like many exotics, Island apple snails are thought to have been brought to the United States through the tropical pet industry and released into the wild in the 1980s. In the subsequent 30 years, populations of these snails have spread from South Florida, below Lake Okeechobee, as far northwest as Tallahassee with dense populations near urban areas and major cities. Unfortunately, control of Island apple snails is limited to hand and mechanical techniques. Island apple snails are naturally preyed upon by the same predators as native apple snails such as snail kites, limpkins, raccoons, turtles and alligators. Island apple snail egg masses are pink in color, differentiating them from the white egg masses of native species. As a method of control, pink egg masses may be scrapped off hosts and allowed to fall into water where they will not grow.


    Non-native Applesnails in Florida. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Web. 8 June 2015. Retrieved from http://myfwc.com/media/673720/FWC_applesnails_FLMS_handout.pdf

  • Old World Climbing Fern

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    Lygodium microphyllum, or Old World climbing fern, is a fern with climbing leafs, or fronds. It is an invasive exotic species from Africa, Australia and Asia that grows rapidly into the canopy of trees and plant communities, shading out native vegetation and dominating a landscape. Its dense vegetation poses a potential fire hazard. Old World climbing fern’s fast growth is due to the method in which it “resprouts” from its leaves. Unlike many invasive species, Old World climbing fern does not need a disturbed area to take root and has taken developed a presence in parks as well as residential areas in the moist South Florida climate. (IFAS)

    Invasive Plants-Old World Climbing Fern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2015. Web. 8 June 2015. Retrieved from
    http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/invasive-plants/weed-alerts/old-world-climbing-fern/

  • Invasive Species Management

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    One of the primary goals of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is to bring four highly invasive exotic plant species into maintenance control.

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