Exotic & Non-Indigenous Plants in Florida

Exotic Plants were brought to Florida for different resources. Some were brought as food sources others were brought purely for aesthetic purposes. Today, most exotic plants are used in Florida landscaping to help beautify homes.

Some of the non-indigenous, or invasive, plant species that are not native to Florida can cause significant ecological and economic harm to Florida’s ecosystems. These include:

  1. Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia): Originally from Australia, the Melaleuca tree was introduced to Florida in the early 1900s for land drainage purposes. However, it quickly became invasive, spreading rapidly in wetland areas and displacing native plants. Efforts have been made to control and manage its growth.
  2. Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius): Native to South America, the Brazilian Pepper was introduced to Florida as an ornamental plant. It forms dense thickets, crowding out native vegetation and altering natural habitats. Its berries are spread by birds, further contributing to its invasiveness.
  3. Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia): Despite its name, the Australian Pine is not a true pine tree. It was introduced to Florida as a windbreak and erosion control measure. However, it has since become invasive along coastal areas, displacing native vegetation and altering dune systems.
  4. Old World Climbing Fern (Lygodium microphyllum): This aggressive vine hails from Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. It grows rapidly, climbing over and smothering native plants. It poses a threat to natural areas, including wetlands and tree canopies, and can create a fire hazard.
  5. Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera): Originating from Africa and Asia, the air potato is a vigorous vine that can smother and shade out native vegetation. Its bulbils, or aerial tubers, are spread by wildlife and water, facilitating its spread in Florida’s natural areas.
  6. Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica): Introduced as an ornamental vine, Japanese Honeysuckle has become invasive in Florida. It grows rapidly and forms dense thickets, outcompeting native plants. Its sweet-scented flowers attract pollinators but can have negative ecological impacts.
  7. Australian Pine (Casuarina spp.): In addition to Casuarina equisetifolia, other Casuarina species from Australia have been introduced in Florida. They can invade coastal ecosystems and impact native flora and fauna.

Efforts are underway to manage and control these invasive species in Florida through various methods, including manual removal, herbicide treatments, and biological control measures. These invasive plants highlight the importance of preventing the introduction of non-indigenous species and the need for conservation efforts to protect Florida’s native ecosystems.


About the author