Yes, there is a bigger enemy than the melaleuca in the Florida Everglades – the Brazilian Peppers (Schinus terebinthifollus) and have earned a spot on the State of Florida’s prohibited plant list. It is now illegal to sell, cultivate or transport them. They now cover 700,000 acres from North Central to South Florida.
The Brazilian pepper is native to subtropical and tropical South America (southeastern Brazil, northern Argentina, and Paraguay) and was brought to Florida in 1890 for use as an ornamental shrub. It has bright green leaves and red berries which why everyone loves them and refer to them as “Florida’s holly.”
Disrupting the ecosystem of other plants and animals crucial for survival in the Everglades, the large shrubs or trees infest areas and advance like armies taking over everything in their path. Currently, Floridians are spending tax dollars trying to reclaim wetlands, pasture lands, fish-spawning waterfronts, nature preserves and residential property from their growth and more tax money is needed.
Dangerous and Damaging Effects of the Brazilian Peppers
- They kill other vegetation
- They cut down on the kind and total numbers of wildlife
- They hurt shorelines
- A paralyzing effect on birds
- They are members of the same family as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac
Growth and Survival Skills
- They grow rapidly up to 10 feet per year
- If cut down, there is re-sprout
- Roots are nearly impossible to dig up
- Prolific seeds are widely distributed by birds and animals
- Resistant to natural events like flooding, fire, and drought
- Can grow in wet or dry soil and are salt-tolerant
- In Florida, there are no natural predators to keep them under control
Two herbicides are approved for use in exterminating the Brazilian pepper: Triclopyr using basal bark method and glyphosate. While it’s not the preferred method for most effective means of eradication, if the stump is freshly cut, Picloram can be used.