You’ve seen them before, plants that take over our Florida ponds. These invasive or non-native plants have been introduced accidently or purposely have gone wild in our yards, parks, roadsides, canal banks, and other natural areas. Some of them are completely harmless and do not pose a threat to our Florida ponds.
Those invasive plants that pose a threat affect human welfare by impeding flood control and affect recreational use of our waterways. The natural controls that keep them in check in their native homelands, like disease and insects, do not live here. Some examples include the air potato, the common reed, and the water hyacinth.
How to control invasive plants
You can take control by creating a plan to manage invasive plants in our waterways. There are three kinds of plant control which include mechanical, chemical, and biological.
Before getting your hands dirty, create a plan of attack. Depending on the location of the plants and type, just pulling them out of the ground might not be enough. They don’t call them invasive for anything; the plants can just grow right back. Some things to consider in your strategy is also whether removing the foliage will affect erosion in the area and whether any wildlife will lose their homes. Your plan of attack should be the most resource efficient and have minimal impact on noninvasive species and the environment.
Mechanical treatment of the plants does not include any chemicals or special licensing. First, identify which plants you are planning to remove and cross check them with a reference provided by your local authority as this one. The Plant Atlas from the University of South Florida is a great resource as to where the plants came from and the best practices in removal.
Most herbaceous and some woody plants can be pulled directly from the ground. They can be dug up with shovels purchased from your local convenience store. It is easier to remove in the spring and early summer when the roots are just starting to form on the plants.
Some other mechanical methods include suffocation and mowing of the greenery. Surprising enough, if you mow the area 3 or 4 times a year, the infestation eventually disappears. Basically, by mowing them, they will fight back at first but give up when they no longer have resources from their energy reserves.
Herbicides are most commonly used and are the most efficient to treat invasive plants. There are several options on the market. Be sure to read the labels before using them in a heavily infested area. Noninvasive plants and other creatures could get sick from those chemicals. The goal is to give the plants and animals native to Florida a chance, not kill them off in your effort to get rid of pests.
Foliar applications are best used with woody plants that are difficult to remove by using the pulling and digging method. If there is a small area you want to attack, go ahead and use this treatment which includes a chemical attached to a back sprayer.
These are still in the works. Newer, less invasive technologies are on the horizon. There is only one method that is widely available that relates to purple loosestrife.
Control of invasive plants in or around wetlands or bodies of water requires a unique set of considerations. Removal projects in wetland zones can be legal and effective if handled appropriately. All projects on wetlands fall under the jurisdiction of the Wetlands Protection Act and require a permit. Florida is home to hundreds of species, and we want to give them hundreds of years of life. Just like in the Clean Water Act, it is our responsibility to keep these natural wonders a place for thriving plant life.