of Archbold Biological Station and Highlands County, Florida

INTRODUCTION. The impact of invasive plants on natural communities in Florida has been well documented (Simberloff et al., 1997), but more work is needed to control these species and inform the general public on the nuances and dangers of specific species. The most direct effect of invasive plants is the alteration of natural communities, either by changes in community structure or composition. Air potato can grow > 60 feet into the canopy of hammocks and shade out the understory. Rosary pea has invaded sections of sandhills and scrub creating a shaded canopy that forms a mesic (or wet) micro-environment in a extremely xeric (or dry) community. In several instances, fire was retarded by thickets of rosary pea and the heat of the fire appeared to scarify the mature seeds allowing for germination of the seeds under the parent plant.

The good news appears to be that the xeric communities of the Lake Wales Ridge are not as susceptible to invasive plants as the more mesic communities are that lie to the east and west of the Ridge. However, this does not mean that we are entirely safe from invasive plants. Mesic and hydric communities that lie on the Ridge such as pine flatwoods, bayhead swamps, hammocks, seasonal ponds, lakes, and streams are all highly susceptible to invasive plants such as Old World climbing fern, melaleuca, downy rosemyrtle, air potato, Brazilian pepper, Indian rosewood, strawberry guava, para grass, cogon grass, and other plants.

Invasive plants that are of land management concern at Archbold Biological Station are non-native plants that invade xeric communities (scrub, scrubby flatwoods, and sandhill). These plants include rosary pea, lantana, cogon grass, para grass, air potato, stargrass, flame vine, and Strophanthus. Most of these species are listed as Category I or II plants by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, but some introduced species such as stargrass, flame vine, and Strophanthus are not listed but have invaded natural areas at Archbold. These plants, for management purposes, have been classified as nuisance plants at Archbold.

Within the pages of this web site, viewers can find information and photographs on invasive plants that threaten natural communities at Archbold Biological Station and the surrounding Highlands County area, and links to other information on invasive plants. Presently, a total of 20 Category I plants, 10 Category II plants, and 35 nuisance plants is known from Archbold. Unfortunately, this number will increase with time as more plants are introduced into the state and landscape fragmentation increases the pathways of introduction.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. This project was partially funded by the Florida Exotic Pest Council's Exotic Education Grant. Partial funding for the Lousy 10 Restoration Project was funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Funding for Old World climbing treatment around Lake Annie was partially funded by the Highlands County Soil Conservation District. Special thanks to Fred Lohrer for his assistance in development of this web site. Bert Crawford designed and constructed the kiosk. Editorial assistance was provided by Leah Goldstein. All photos on this Web site are under copyright to Archbold Biological Station.

Hutchinson, J.T., September 2003, last revised 18 September 2003.

Children from the Scrub Ecology Day Camp help remove Air Potato from the main grounds. Photo by Jeff Hutchinson. © Archbold Biological Station, 2003.