Florida's Most Unwanted Invasive Species

in·va·sive [inˈvāsiv] ADJECTIVE

(especially of plants or a disease) tending to spread prolifically and undesirably or harmfully. © Oxford University Press

Native to the South Pacific and Indian oceans, red lionfish (Pterois volitans) are vicious predators of native reef fish and their spines are toxic to humans. These popular aquarium fish can now be found from Rhode Island to the Caribbean.

Florida is a wonderful place and attracts visitors from around the world. But, we need to hide the welcome mat for invasive species that act like criminals among Florida’s native habitats. Help us combat invasive species>>

Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) are one of the world’s largest snakes. Released by pet owners, they are now well-established in the Everglades. Pythons eat endangered, native wading birds and deer. What else does a python eat?

Feral hogs (Sus scrofa), whose population in Florida is the second largest in the country, root like rototillers and steal over $800 million per year from the agricultural industry in crop damage and livestock diseases.

Feral hog (Sus scrofa) damage sensitive habitats such as The Disney Wilderness Preserve, threatening the survival of many native plants and animals.

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is considered the state’s most problematic aquatic weed. Growing very quickly, hydrilla displaces native vegetation and degrades water quality.

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) clogs water intakes and reduces storm water flow. Originally from Asia, its thick mats can seriously restrict boating activity.

Island apple snails (Pomacea insularum), released accidentally in the 1980’s, are now found throughout Florida. These voracious eaters of aquatic vegetation pose significant risks to agriculture and delicate aquatic ecosystems.

Monitor lizards (Varanus niloticus) grow up to six feet and are attacking the southwest coast in a population explosion. They eat native birds and aggressively threaten areas such as Ding Darling Sanctuary, a rare ecological gem.

Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) is a great threat to Florida’s native plants and animals. Each plant sends thousands of spores airborne annually.

Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) fronds grow up to 125 feet, suffocating everything beneath them—even pine and cypress trees. These plants can carry flames into treetop canopies that are normally out of fire’s range.

Purple swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio), although primarily vegetarian, are known to prey on native species including mollusks, fish, frogs, snakes, and even small birds. Native to Turkey and Asia, several sub-species are now in the wild.

Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) spread rapidly and easily. They attack anything that nests or has young on the ground, including nesting birds, sea turtles and people. They damage crops, and their venom is as toxic as that of a cobra.

Introduced in Alabama by South American soil from 1933 to 1945, fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) are now in 14 southern states and California—at four to seven times their native density.

The Mexican bromeliad weevil (Metamasius callizona) infiltrated Florida in 1989 on a shipment of Mexican bromeliads. Its hostile attacks on native bromeliads, has put two more of Florida’s finest specimens on the endangered species list.
Photo courtesy of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.