Jan 25 2016

You may often hear about invasive or exotic plants, but what exactly do those terms mean? Can you still plant invasive or exotic plants? 

An exotic plant is simply a species that was brought to Florida from elsewhere. A native plant is one that is naturally occurring in Florida.  An "invasive exotic" is a plant that has an expanding population and did not originate in South Florida.

So doesn’t that mean everything that is not native to Florida is exotic? Yes, but not invasive.  The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council only lists about 11% of the exotic species as invasive.  With more than 1,400 exotic species in Florida many of these plants do not have invasive qualities and are perfectly suitable for the environment.  While the FLEPPC (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council) has a list of invasive plants separated by category, this does not mean that you cannot use these plants in your landscape. Broken into two categories, Category I (more threatening) and Category II (less threatening), they have varying levels of aggression within plant communities.  

Some popular Category I plants include: Mimosa/ Silk Trees, Asparagus Fern, Australian Pines, Sword Fern, and Strawberry Guava trees. 

Category II: Mexican Petunia, Coconut Palm, Silverthorn, Chinese Fan Palm, Bottlebrush, Golden Bamboo, Senegal Date Palms, Solitaire Palms, Oyster Plant, and Washington Fan Palms.  Also on the list is Orange Jessamine, which has been restricted because of its threat to the citrus crop. 

These lists do not restrict homeowners from using these plants, but caution should be used when planting.  Proper maintenance and pest plant management should be taken to ensure plants do not spread or overtake other plant communities.  On a regional and municipal scale, heavier restrictions are in place preventing these plants from being used in mass planting.  If you are unsure about restrictions in your area check your local government website for guidelines as well as maintenance advice.