6 Invasive Non-Native Trees in Florida

Invasive trees can displace native plants and wildlife. Which non-native trees in Florida should you recognize?

Invasive plant species spread quickly, displacing native plants and impeding their growth. A healthy plant community includes a wide variety of plants, shrubs, and trees, but invasive plants harm the environment by reducing plant diversity.

In this article, we’ll introduce six invasive, non-native trees that are found in Florida. 

1. Skunk Vine

Skunk vine is a thornless, woody vine that originated in Asia. Skunk vines can grow up to 30 feet long and are often seen climbing up trees, shrubs, and buildings. As the name suggests, this invasive plant emits an unpleasant odor. If you suspect skunk vine in your garden, manage it quickly – it can grow to the point that it breaks tree limbs and starves ground vegetation by blocking out sunlight with its leaves.

thick skunk vine with flowers

2. Brazilian Peppertree

The Brazilian peppertree is one of Florida’s most aggressive and pervasive non-native plants, infesting nearly 700,000 acres throughout the state. It’s originally from South America (some believe it’s native to Brazil, while others believe it’s from Argentina or Paraguay). This small tree produces clusters of bright red berries and is related to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

Avoid direct contact with this plant’s leaves because it may cause skin irritation. There have also been reports of the plant causing respiratory problems when it blooms. 

flowering brazilian pepper tree

3. Australian Pine

The Australian pine is a type of evergreen that is unlike those native to Florida. This pine tree is from Australia and Southeast Asia and is known for its rapid growth rate and the rapid rate at which it spreads. Australian pines thrive in sandy, salty, and marshy locations, all of which make Florida ideal. They quickly inhabit areas where native trees have been destroyed.

It’s also worth noting that these trees have shallow root systems, so they can topple over easily during high winds, which can be dangerous during Florida’s storm season. 

australian pine tree by the lake

4. Melaleuca Tree

Melaleuca trees originate in Australia but can be found in the Florida Everglades’ moist, nutrient-rich habitat. This tree species grows quite large and poses a severe and long-term threat to the Everglades’ ecosystem. They are also highly flammable, which could result in widespread damage in the event of a wildfire.

melaleuca tea tree with white flowers

5. Camphor Tree

These large berry-baring trees are mainly found in Asia but have found their way to Florida. They are easily identifiable by their pointed leaves and the glossy dark purple or black berries it produces, which are toxic to humans and animals. Camphor trees thrive in Florida’s salt marshes and sandy soil, pushing native pine and cypress trees out of their natural habitat.

very large and tall camphor tree

6. Old World Climbing Fern

Another invasive plant that originated in Australia is the Old World climbing fern. This fern’s fronds grow quickly and wildly in Florida’s warm and humid climate, ultimately smothering, strangling, and burying native plants. Old World climbing fern has grown to cover over 200,000 acres of land in South and Central Florida. 

old world climbing fern growing in the forest
Leila Haynes
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