Everglades Invasive Species: Brazilian Pepper Plant

Brazilian pepperAround 26 percent of the animals and birds in South Florida are exotic; this area also happens to have one of the highest numbers of exotic plants in the world. Because of this, the Everglades has suffered in many ways, including losing many native plant and animal species. Currently, the cost to control invasive species is $500 million a year, but there is still 1.7 million acres of land in South Florida, including the Everglades, that is still infested with these invasive species. One such invasive species is the Brazilian Pepper plant.

The Brazilian Pepper plant is a bushy, evergreen tree; it can have multiple trunks and branches. The plant ranges from 15 feet to 30 feet in height. It produces tiny white flowers and red berries. The berries are similar to holly berries, so the plant is also referred to as the Florida holly.

This plant came over to this country from Brazil/Argentina/Paraguay in the 1840s to be used for ornamental purposes. However, over the years, it has spread and invaded pinelands, hammocks, mangrove forests, farmlands, and roadsides. How is this plant spreading? Animals and birds, like racoons and robins, are known to eat and move the berries long distances, which is helping the plant spread.

It is an aggressive plant. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most invasive plants that is in Florida covering around 700,000 acres of land. There are large, dense forests of this plant adjacent to mangroves along the southwest part of the Everglades and the coastal areas of both South Florida and the west central part of the state.

The plant is fire resistant and salt tolerant. Not only does this plant produce chemicals that suppress the growth of native plants, but this plant is harmful to humans. The chemicals found in the Brazilian Pepper plant’s leaves, flowers, and fruits can cause irritation of the skin and respiratory system. The berries also have been known to have a toxic effect or act as a narcotic to the native birds and other wildlife.  This

Because it is an invasive, aggressive plant, it is illegal to plant or sell this plant in Florida.

Visit the Everglades

The Everglades is a breath-taking sight, but unfortunately a lot of the plant and animal life are disappearing from human interference, climate change, and invasive species, like the Brazilian Pepper plant. Fortunately, there are conservations plans put in place now working at fixing the damage done to this beautiful wetland. Come check out this amazing place on an airboat tour with Captain Mitch. To schedule a tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.