This is an introduction to a two-part series on the Everglades invasive species problem that derives from exotic plants and animals that are not native to the region.

South Florida’s invasive species problems began with the population surge in the 20th century. The surge South Florida experienced was unparalleled to anywhere in the United States. When you take the rapid urban expansion into consideration, you see why they thought it was necessary to drain portions of the Everglades for flood control. In fact, flood control became the main priority for the area. From 1947 to 1971, the Central and South Florida Flood Control Project constructed over 1,400 miles of canals and flood control structures. The damage from that expansion created new habitats and disrupted the established plant and animal habitats of the Everglades.

The exotic fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals in South Florida is approximately 26%. The highest in the United States. Further, the region has the highest number of exotic plant species in the world.

The two-part series begins with the various plant species, their purpose of introduction and will including the following plants:


Scientific NameCommon NamePurpose of Introduction
Melaleuca quinquenerviaMelaleucaLandscaping, drainage
Lydogium microphyllum Old World climbing fernUnknown purpose
Schinus terebinthifollus Brazilian pepper, Florida holly, Christmas berryLandscaping
Casuarina, equisetifolia, Casuarina glauca, Casuarina cunninghamiana Australian pine, beefwood, ironwood, she oak, horsetail tree Landscaping
Colubrina asiatica Latherleaf, Asiatic or common colubrine, hoop with, Asian snakerootMedicinal supplies
Eichhornia crassipesWater hyacinth, water orchidWaterscaping
Pistia stratiotes Water lettuce, water cabbagePossibly accidental
Neyraudia reynaudiana Burna reed, silk reed, cane grass, false reedEscaped from USDA test gardens
Hydrilla verticallata Hydrilla, water thyme, Florida elodea, waterweedPossibly spread from aquariums, found on every continent except Antarctica
Dioscorea bulbiferaAir potato, potato yam, air yamEscaped from USDA test gardens, landscaping
Cupaniopsis anacardioides Carrotwood, Beach Tamarind, Green-leaved Tamarind, tuckeroo treeLandscaping
Rhodomyrtus tomentosa Downy rose myrtle, downy myrtle, hill gooseberry, hill guavaLandscaping

Next will follow the series on the animal species, their method of introduction and will include the following animals:


Scientific NameCommon NameMethod of Introduction
Paratachardina lobate lobate Lobate lac scaleUnknown
Metamaius callizona Bromeliad beetle, Evil weevil, Mexican weevilPossibly imported with Tillandsia bromeliads
Pomacea insularum Island apple snailDumped from aquariums
Corbicula flumineaAsiatic clamPossible importation of food for Asian laborers in British Columbia


Scientific NameCommon NameMethod of Introduction
Pterygoplichthys multiradiatusSailfin, suckermouth catfish, PlecostomusDumped from aquariums
Clarias batrachus Walking catfishEscaped or released from stocks
Cichlasoma urophthaimusMayan cichlidDumped from aquariums
Oreochromis aureusBlue tilapia, Israeli tilapiaEscaped from stocks for aquatic plant control


Scientific NameCommon NameMethod of Introduction
Python molurus bivittatusBurmese python, Indian pythonImported by/through pet trade
Iguana iguanaGreen iguanaImported by/through pet trade
Varanus niloticusNine monitorImported by/through pet trade
Basiliscus vittatusBrown BasiliskImported by/through pet trade


Scientific NameCommon NameMethod of Introduction
Myiopsitta monachusMonk ParakeetImported by/through pet trade
Acridontheres tristisCommon MynaImported by/through pet trade
Porphyria porphyrioPurple SwamphenEscaped Miami MetroZoo during Hurricane Andrew or released by collectors


Scientific NameCommon NameMethod of Introduction
Sus scrofaWild boar, feral pigFood for people
Felis silverstrios catusDomestic/feral catCompanions for people
Rattus rattusBlack rat, House rat, Roof ratInhabitants of settlers' ships

Photographic credit: By pelican – originally posted to Flickr as Ueno zoo, Tokyo, Japan, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

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