Have you seen this culprit?
Our mangroves are highly protected for a reason – they’re a key part of keeping Florida’s ecosystem and waterways clean and healthy, so generations to come can experience them. But one of the biggest threats to our mangroves is also one of the hardest to control: invasive species.
Invasive species are those that are not native to their environment and have been brought in by some outside, unnatural way. Because they don’t belong, they can destroy that environment and everything in it.
One of the biggest offenders in Florida is the Brazilian pepper tree, also known as the “Florida Holly.” These trees were brought here in the mid-1800s for ornamental purposes, but are in the same family as poison oak, sumac and ivy, making them harmful to humans as well.
The pepper tree is hardy and aggressive, able to overtake plants in both wet and dry areas, and saltwater-resistant to boot. They are especially harmful to mangroves, driving away species that need them. They can grow 10 feet every year, and their roots are nearly impossible to dig up. Worst of all, there’s no biological control agent (like a pesticide) that can manage them. They are on the state of Florida’s prohibited plants’ list, and it is illegal to cultivate, sell or transport them. The Brazilian pepper tree may be beautiful, but beauty can be deceiving!