Invasive exotic plants (also known as noxious weeds) are those non-native species that are disrupting naturally occurring native plant communities. Some plants may exhibit rampant growth and rapid dispersal when introduced outside of their native habitat where weather and soil conditions, feeding by herbivores, and pests and diseases keep them under control. Invasive exotic plants out-compete and displace native species, disrupt the ecology of the natural community (by affecting the other plants and animals which are dependent on the displaced species), and alter natural processes such as fire and water flow.
Some of the best-known examples in Florida are the Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), both of which have formed dense thickets occupying hundreds of thousands of acres in the southern part of the state. This has resulted in the destruction of native plant communities, loss of habitat for endangered native species, and the reduction of wetlands. Camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), and Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) are among the most common invasive trees in northern Florida.
Potential invasivity should be considered when selecting trees for the landscape. It is against the law to possess, move, or release any plant pest or noxious weed regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the United States Department of Agriculture except under permit. Lists of invasive trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are maintained by various national and state agencies and organizations.
State listings may be accessed at both the USDA Natural
Resources Conservation Service Invasive Plants Database and National
Invasive Species Council website. In Florida, the best sources for
information are the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) and
the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.