Invasive Plants in Our Backyard

Florida has around 18,000 plants considered “native” to North America. Native plants are good for our soil, provide natural habitats for wildlife, protect us from hurricanes, and provide beauty to our landscape.

Then, there are the invasive plants that have aggressively invaded our space, claimed it as their own, wreaked havoc on our native plants, spread forest fires, and destroyed wildlife habitats.

So who are these cellulose impersonators?

Brazilian pepper trees (schinum terefinthifolius) 

This highly successful invader’s beautiful red berries are “itching” to make their way into our landscapes. In fact, the tree’s fruit is so closely related to poison ivy, oak, and sumac that it can leave a skin rash or cause breathing issues. It was unwisely introduced to our area as the “Florida Holly” and has since infested over 700,000 acres in Florida, spreading a dense canopy that shades out other plants need to provide habitats for native fauna. 

Lantana (Lantana camara)

Butterflies love Lantana plants, so Floridians love them in their gardens. But there’s a catch. Lantana camara is invasive and not recommended for North, Central, or South Florida. It quickly spreads and is toxic to animals (from squirrels to house pets). Thankfully, for Lantana lovers and the pollinators, there’s a sterile variety that cannot produce viable seeds or pollen so isn’t invasive. Choose sterile Camara or the native varieties like Lantana Depressa. 

Carrotwood (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) 

The Carrotwood, so named from its orange-colored inner bark, is an Australian import listed as one of Florida’s most invasive plants. Fish crows feast on their bright seeds, then disperse them onto dunes, marshes, hammocks, and scrub habitats where they germinate and crowd out native plants. About 35 feet tall with a shady spread, they were once considered decorative trees for home landscape. No more!

Old World Climbing Fern (lygodium microphyllum)

Another invader from down under, this Aussie fern was brought to Martin County in 1965. This aggressive invader bullies its way into our wetlands and takes over where bald cypress stands, mangrove swamps, and sawgrass marshes would normally thrive. Over time, a thick mat of old fern material accumulates on the ground, severely alters the habitat. When fire occurs, the fern carries flames into the tree canopy where fire spreads rapidly tree-to-tree. Rated #1 worst invasive.


From the Citizen Scientist Project, an eye-opening article on the fern capable of toppling trees. 

To fight invasive plants and preserve our native species, Jenkins practices Integrated Pest Management, one of the key principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping.™ We educate our technicians to differentiate between invasives and desirables

Jenkins’ technicians take pride in being FNGLA-Certified Landscape Maintenance Technicians, a certification that includes the ability to identify both native and invasive Florida plants. 

GET INVOLVED: Be Part of the Solution

Be prepared to send an email request for removal of invasive plants on any natural trail on the Treasure Coast. Save this link to your mobile device: Martin County Request Removal of Exotic/Invasive Plants on Natural Trails

Report a plant that you believe might be invasive by saving this link to your mobile device and sending a photo of the suspicious plant to UF/IFAS Extension


Unfortunately, some invasive species begin as landscape choices. You fill a space, provide a backdrop, and before you know it, suddenly you have duplicates throughout your yard, and too often in your neighbor’s yard too!

If you suspect you have invasive plants on your property, our landscape crews are trained in their identification, assessment, and removal. Invasive plants are by nature hard to remove, so herbicides are a last resort when mechanical methods fail. 

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