Everglades Invasive Species: Melaleuca  

melaleucaThe Everglades is home to 100 species of seed-bearing plants and 120 species of trees. In fact, there are more plants found in the Everglades than anywhere else in the world. However, some of these species are not native to the Everglades and can cause problems to the native species. For this article, we wanted to share with you some information on the invasive plant: Melaleuca quinquenervia.

The melaleuca is known as the paperback or punk tree that is part of the eucalyptus family. It is originally from Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. The tree was brought to southern Florida in the early 1900s for landscaping purposes and swamp drying.

This tree has spongy, white bark that peels. It can grow up to 80 feet tall. Its leaves are green and are about two to six inches in length. The tree produces white flowers and small fruit/seed capsules.

Unfortunately, the melaleuca aggressively invades and spread rapidly. It can turn marshes and wet prairies into thickets. An adult tree can produce more than a million seeds per year and store 20 million seeds. The seeds get released if there is a frost, fire, or herbicide application. This plant is one of the greatest threats to the Everglades’ ecosystem.

Researchers, officials, and park workers are working to get this tree out of the park. Young trees can be pulled out by hand, medium trees can be pushed over, and larger trees are cut down. Due to lots of seeds being spread around, follow-up removal or herbicide treatment is required.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to see if the snout beetle will be worth using in the fight against the melaleuca. This type of beetle is known to feed on the melaleuca’s shoots, which keeps it from reproducing.

Herbicide is currently used for a largest infested area, but it can cause the tree to release its seeds, which makes the problem worse.

Explore the Everglades on An Airboat

Problems in the Everglades go well beyond the Burmese Python. As you can see, other invasive species are threatening the ecosystem. We thank the park workers, scientists, researchers, and officials, who are working on managing and eliminating all threats to the Everglades’ livelihood.

We want the Everglades to be here for many generations ahead.

Like stated above, the Everglades is full of plant species (many native), and they are beautiful to see in person. A great way to view the plant life and Everglades is on an airboat. To book an airboat tour, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page.