Gardening: An education on nonnative plants


I have often encouraged Marco Island residents to become better stewards of our land by learning good horticultural practices and how to identify and remove invasive, exotic plants. When nonnative plants spread extensively and displace native plants they become invasive and cause damage to the native ecosystem.

The spread of invasive vegetation can be reduced by educating the public and local governments on the identity and control of these invasive plants.

I have compiled a list of some plants commonly found in our landscapes, vacant lots or even still sold in the local nurseries.

Sword or Boston Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) – This common house plant will spread and form dense stands when planted in the landscape or allowed into a natural area.

Agave or Century Plant (Agave sisalana Perrine ex Engelm.) – The large flowering stalks of this popular succulent specimen plant can produce over 2000 bubils which in turn could produce 2000 new plants if left alone.

Sansevieria or Mother-in-law’s-tongue (Sansevieria hyacinthoides (L.) Druce) – Loves the soil and climate of South Florida. When planted in the landscape it produces a fast growing, dense population with extensive rhizome roots.

Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum (L.) Engl. cv Aureum) – Covers the ground and tree trunks completely taking over the area.

Oyster Plant or Moses in a boat (Rhoeo spathacea (Sw.) Stearn – Known to take over areas quickly, even on rock walls, building roofs and trees.

Fountain grass (Pennisetum setacenm (Forssk.) Chiov.) – It not only escapes in gardens to become a pest but also naturalizes along roadways and natural areas.

Mexican petunia (Ruellia tweediana Griseb.) – This perennial flower is a new favorite with gardeners due to its constant dark purple flowers. It escapes to wetlands and upland natural areas with invasive rhizomes and seeds.

Schefflera (Schefflera actinophylla (Endl.) Harms) – Common as houseplants or fast growing landscape tree. Seeds readily in scrub habitat where it shades out native plants.

Senegal Date palm (Phoenix reclinata Jacq.) – Widely used as a specimen ornamental palm in landscapes.

Solitary or Alexander palm – (Ptychosperma elegans (R.Br.) Blume) – Another ornamental palm found in landscapes. Seedlings are found growing prolifically under mother plants in natural areas.

Strawberry guava, Cattley guava (Psidium cattleianum Sabine) – Planted in landscapes as a small tree or hedge plant with edible fruit. It grows wild and forms thickets that shade out natives.

Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria elegans (Seem.) A.C. Sm.) – Used as a fast growing landscape tree. Popular for the bright yellow flowers and light pink to rose, papery capsules holding the seeds.

Australian-pine (Casuarina equisetifolia L.) – This tall, fast growing pine was introduced to Florida in the late 1800s as windbreaks and shade trees. Seeds germinate easily and it spreads rapidly.

Marco Island and surrounds had a very large population of these pines for many years. The center of the island had an area known as “The Pines” until Hurricane Andrew came along in the early 90s and knocked them down. After that, owners were required to remove them.

Another example of a local attempt to control these trees was Coconut Island at the mouth of the Marco River. It was a popular destination for boaters until one of the local environmental entities decided the Australian pines were a detriment to the local ecology and ordered them all cut down. The locals complained that without the roots of these trees there would be no Coconut Island. The environmentalists argued they would replant new coconut palms which would hold the soil in place. Alas, the palms died and Coconut Island disappeared with the tides.

The latest note of interest with Australian pines is located on the much talked about Tract K. This is the tract of land that the American Bald Eagle has decided to call home. They have unfortunately chosen an Australian pine to nest in. The chance of their home succumbing to a tropical wind storm is quite high.

Eileen Ward and her husband Peter have owned and operated Greensward of Marco, Inc., a lawn maintenance and landscaping company since 1981. Watch Eileen’s gardening videos on Eileen is an FNGLA Certified Horticultural Professional, has a Commercial Pesticide license in Natural Areas Management and is a registered Dealer in Agricultural products in Florida.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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