Florida pays a high price for invasive species damage

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Florida’s climate creates a comfortable environment for a variety of plant species. The downside is that invasive and potentially destructive species also often try to take hold in Florida. A new guide developed by UF / IFAS Extension Seminole County describes plants to avoid and which to adopt in a Florida landscape.

The annual impact of invasive plants, animals and disease on Florida’s agricultural industry is estimated at $ 179 million. To avoid contributing to the bigger problem, homeowners, landscapers, small nurseries, and plant lovers should carefully select the plants they purchase and install.

A guide shows what not to plant and what to plant.

“Invasive plants are never good plants,” said Tina McIntyre, UF / IFAS Extension Seminole County Florida-Friendly landscaping officer. “Ornamental plants sometimes become invasive species in our natural lands and waterways. I spent the first 10 years of my career in the field as a biologist and saw this happen often. Now, I educate homeowners, landscaping professionals, and the public on ways they can make a difference. This guide is one of those tools.

The small portable guide is designed for on-the-go use in the field for professionals and homeowners.

“We get so many questions from homeowners and landscapers about invasive species terminology, why they are important and how they might help,” McIntyre said. “I needed a complete resource for them so that they could better understand that plant breeding is really about the right plant, in the right place.”

Some plants are invasive and their sale in Florida is prohibited. However, many plants in Florida are invasive and are still cleared for sale.

“We want people to think more critically about the plants they select for their landscapes,” said Morgan Pinkerton, UF / IFAS Extension Seminole County Officer in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. “It’s up to all of us to make more sustainable choices in the landscape, especially our professionals. Their choices can have impacts on an even greater scale. Avoiding invasive species, even those that are often still for sale, is an important step when we talk about the long-term sustainability of our environment.

The guide is available for purchase from the UF / IFAS extension library. For more information on purchasing native plants, visit Florida Association of Native Nurseries website. A list of native and Florida-friendly plants can be found on Ask IFAS.

“We want consumers to avoid plants which can be costly burdens on our economy, our environment and our society,” McIntyre said. “This book is a great tool for educators and others to make sure they choose plants for their landscape that are beneficial to the world around them.”

Partners in this project include funding for Seminole County Recreation Services, contributions from Rachel Gutner and Sandy Wilson, and review by CISMA Central Florida and Deah Lieurance.

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