National Invasive Species Awareness Week

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is February 27-March 3, 2017 so I’m republishing some of my lost articles that relate to invasive species that I sometimes find in my garden.

Although cute, Invasive Cuban Treefrogs will invade anything
Although cute, Invasive Cuban Treefrogs will invade anything

Dateline: March 4, 2011*

Today is the last day of National Invasive Species Awareness Week but hopefully with the promotion of this week a new generation of people now have a better understanding of what invasive species are and why it is necessary to eradicate them from their area. I monitor and do a few things to prevent furtherance of some critters in my area.

cubantreefrogfeb2015We have Cuban tree frogs which I routinely humanely euthanize and put in the freezer until trash day. I learned about them in an article in the local paper. Luckily the last two years we had hard freezes, so their numbers are not what they used to be. Last year I only had about 5-10. The prior year I had 15 a week or more.

eggs of Invasive Pomacea insularum (Island  applesnail) are BRIGHT PINK.  Scraped off and allowed to fall into the water since inundated eggs will not hatch
eggs of Invasive Pomacea insularum (Island applesnail) are BRIGHT PINK. Scraped off and allowed to fall into the water since inundated eggs will not hatch

We also have island apple snails whose eggs I spotted in the drainage culvert. I remove numerous live snails, again to the freezer and I carefully see that the eggs are inundated with water to prevent hatching. These snails likely came from the aquarium trade and the lesson to be learned is don’t dump your aquarium water outside. Many aquarium plants also can prove to be invasive when released into the wild.

Learn to identify the invasive snails
Learn to identify the invasive snails

We also have problems with many invasive plants in Florida. A few years back I picked up some mulch from the recycling center in town. I spread this leaf mulch around some shrubbery at the base of my house. A few weeks later, a rather attractive looking leaf began to grow. Since I love nurturing and watching what appears in my garden, I waited until it got a bit taller and then transplanted it to a better location where it looked like it would be a nice specimen tree or shrub. I carefully surrounded it with mulch and watered it faithfully.

Fast-forward a few days. I had just recently joined the Florida Native Plant Society and got my first electronic issue of The Lily Pad, the monthly newsletter of the Pine Lily Chapter to which I belong. I was excited as I sat at the computer perusing the pages that the editor, Claudia Canty had put together. There was the “Species Spotlight” and “Save the Date” sections which I read with interest. Then I turned the page and was stunned to see a photograph of the beautiful plant I had just started cultivating. It was the dreaded Brazilian Peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius). This beauty of a plant, often referred to as “Florida Holly” is PROHIBITED in Florida.

I had visions of being carted off to jail as they shouted “drop the trowel, lady, move away from that rake”. I have since upended this disaster-in-the-making and hung it from a fence until the roots were dried out so there was no chance for it to sprout. Keep in mind that just because a plant is listed as an invasive on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) list doesn’t mean that it can’t be sold in the state.

It is a sad fact that big box stores in Florida still sell Mexican Petunias and Nandina which are Class I invasive plants on the FLEPPC list. It is up to us to know what we are purchasing, so make a list of the plants that are invasive in your area and vow not to participate in furthering their spread. I was given a gift of Nandina when I first moved here but have since removed them and dried them out until they were no longer viable.

Brazilian peppertree, Schinus terebinthifolia
Brazilian Peppertree although beautiful is prohibited in Florida photo: Dan Clark, USDI National Park Service,

The lesson to be learned here is that anyone can become victim to invasive plant furtherance because birds pass seeds or the recycling area doesn’t cook the mulch to kill off the invasive plant seeds, or nursery owners will provide what sells. Get rid of what has the potential to create havoc in our natural areas by doing some research. In Florida replace any class I invasives with some nice native plants in your yard. In other areas, visit the Invasive Plants Atlas for a list, check scientific names at nurseries and rely on your own research in assuring you have the right plant for the right place.

What are you doing to keep invasive species in check?

*This is an update of a tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on March 4, 2011 at the defunct national blogbeautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

featured photo:  Urena lobata (Caesarweed) Category I on the FLEPPC list.


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