By L. Scott Jackson and Julie B. McConnell, UF/IFAS Extension Bay County
Northwest Florida’s pristine natural world is being threaten by a group of non-native plants and animals known collectively as invasive species. Exotic invasive species originate from other continents and have adverse impacts on our native habitats and species. Many of these problem non-natives have nothing to keep them in check since there’s nothing that eats or preys on them in their “new world”. One of the most problematic and widespread invasive plants we have in our local area is air potato vine.
Air potato vine originated in Asia and Africa. It was brought to Florida in the early 1900s. People moved this plant with them using it for food and traditional medicine. However, raw forms of air potato are toxic and consumption is not recommended. This quick growing vine reproduces from tubers or “potatoes”. The potato drops from the vine and grows into the soil to start new vines. Air potato is especially a problem in disturbed areas like utility easements, which can provide easy entry into forests. Significant tree damage can occur in areas with heavy air potato infestation because vines can entirely cover large trees. Some sources report vine growth rates up to eight inches per day!
Air Potato vines covering native shrubs and trees in Bay County, Florida. (Photo by L. Scott Jackson)
Mechanical removal of vines and potatoes from the soil is one control method. Additionally, herbicides are often used to remediate areas dominated by air potato vine but this runs the risk of affecting non-target plants underneath the vine. A new tool for control was introduced to Florida in 2011, the air potato leaf beetle. Air potato beetle releases have been monitored and evaluated by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers and scientists for several years.
Air Potato Beetle crawling on leaf stem. Beetles eat leaves curtailing the growth and impact of air potato. (Photo by Julie B. McConnell)
Air potato beetles target only air potato leaves making them a perfect candidate for biological control. Biological controls aid in the management of target invasive species. Complete eradication is not expected, however suppression and reduced spread of air potato vine is realistic.
UF/IFAS Extension Bay County will host the Air Potato Challenge on June 6, 2018. Citizen scientist will receive air potato beetles and training regarding introduction of beetles into their private property infested with air potato vine. Pre-registration is recommended to receive the air potato beetles. Please visit http://bit.ly/bayairpotato
In conjunction with the Air Potato Challenge, UF/IFAS Extension Bay County will be hosting an invasive species awareness workshop. Dr. Steve Johnson, UF/IFAS Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, will be presenting “Exotic Invaders: Reptiles and Amphibians of Concern in Northwest Florida”. Additionally, experts from UF/IFAS Extension, Florida Fish and Wildlife, and the Science and Discovery center will have live exhibits featuring invasive reptiles, lionfish, and plants. For more information visit http://bay.ifas.ufl.edu or call the UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Office at 850-784-6105.
Flyer for Air Potato Challenge and Invasive Species Workshop June 6 2018
In the photo is a Houston area home with storm damage after hurricane Harvey . There are plenty of ways to help. See volunteer and donation opportunities at www.nvoad.org/voad-members/national-members . Photo by Christy Volanski.
Recent images of hurricane Irma and Harvey’s devastating impacts remind all of us living along the Gulf just how powerful tropical cyclones can be. There’s a Gulf of Mexico kinship we all feel. Even more today since Irma has put our Florida homes and cities in the news just like Harvey did a few days ago in Texas.
Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, and Ike are names that conjure personal memories of past storms that I’ve lived through and helped others recover from. Every storm’s impact and response is different but the main question is always the same, “What can I do to help?”
Help is the keyword. Showing up in a disaster area without a plan, without training, or without the support of a recognized and welcomed organization is potentially risky. Rogue, unaffiliated volunteers put themselves and others at risk by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just showing up is not help but compounds emergency recovery efforts.
Donating money is the best method to quickly provide resources where they are needed the most. Donating the wrong items can burden damaged communities and waste efforts. A better place to start to help is Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster or VOAD for short, http://NVOAD.org . VOAD includes well known response organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, and other non-profit or faith-based organizations which specialize in community disaster recovery. You can visit their webpage to donate to specific recovery efforts and to learn about volunteer opportunities. VOAD organizations support volunteers with training, coordination with emergency managers, and often provide volunteers with some types of work insurance coverage. Similar opportunities and information can also be found with Volunteer Florida at https://www.volunteerflorida.org/irma
The severe impacts from Irma and Harvey will extend recovery for several years, so there will be ample opportunity for individuals to help immediately and into the foreseeable future. Harvey’s flooding reminds me of Katrina. I volunteered months after the storm with a faith-based organization to help rebuild a church in St. Bernard Parish. This church became a focal point to help distribute clothing, food and other resources as local families recovered. Another time we assisted flood victims on the Wakulla River, volunteering with the Salvation Army. This organization provided us with training and support as we helped with mud-outs, removing sediment flooded homes. Look for similar opportunities in responding to Harvey and Irma. These are just two examples of many ways you can help make a difference.
Now is the perfect time to contact one of the VOAD organizations or with Volunteer Florida if you are interested in volunteering. Floodwaters will soon crest, safe access will be restored, and assessments will be completed. As a result, restoration efforts will be prioritized, timed, and coordinated to meet local needs. Quality trained volunteers are needed to help life return to normal. You can be the answer to prayers all across the Gulf.
Giant Salvinia mats completely covering Bay County pond. This fast growing invasive can double in size every week! Photo by L. Scott Jackson
Matthew Phillips and Scott Jackson –
UF/IFAS Extension and Research works with many partners supporting invasive species management actions and strategies across Florida. One key partner is the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Invasive Plant Management Section. FWC Biologists provide resources and expertise to address threats from Florida’s most disruptive invasive species. FWC and UF/IFAS have worked together for years. They have teamed-up to help residents make the best cost-effective management decisions to preserve unique habitats and ecosystems. Most days are filled with routine questions from land managers and pond owners but on rare occasions there are days we will never forget.
Active growing Giant Salvinia was observed growing out of the pond water on to moist soils and emerging cypress and tupelo tree trunks. Photo by L. Scott Jackson
Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) is an invasive free-floating aquatic fern from South America that is rarely observed in Northwest Florida. The species is on the Federal Noxious Weed List and the Florida Prohibited Aquatic Plants List. After a site visit with a pond owner, Scott Jackson, a University of Florida/IFAS Extension Agent, identified Salvinia molesta in the Bay County pond and notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Invasive Plant Management Section. Their staff confirmed the identification of the specimen and a second voucher specimen was transferred to the Godfrey Herbarium at Florida State University.
Jackson reported the observation on the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) housed at the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. This was only the second reported occurrence of giant salvinia in Northwest Florida. It is a high control priority for the state of Florida due to its high invasive potential.
Giant salvinia has caused severe economic and environmental problems in Texas and Louisiana and in many countries including New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Giant salvinia grows rapidly and produces a dense floating canopy on the surface of ponds, lakes, and rivers. It aggressively spreads by vegetative fragments and thrives in slow-moving, nutrient-rich warm fresh water. Floating mats of giant salvinia shade out native submersed vegetation and degrade water quality.
Mats also impede boating, fishing, swimming, and clog water intakes for irrigation and electrical generation.1 Salvinia molesta has been listed in The World’s Worst Weeds – Distribution and Biology2 since 1977. It was recently added to 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species, an all taxa list compiled by invasion biologists with the Global Invasive Species Database.3
The most distinguishing physical characteristic of Salvinia molesta is the basket- or egg beater-like hairs on the upper leaves (a hand lens is required) which distinguishes it from common salvinia (Salvinia minima). Common salvinia also has hairs on the upper leaf surface but they do not form basket-like structures at the tips. The upper leaves of both species repel water.
Photo by Barry Rice, sarracenia.com, Bugwood.org Rows of egg beater or light bulb shaped leaf hairs are a unique identifying characteristic of giant salvinia.
The location of the giant salvinia infestation found by Jackson is precariously close to Deer Point Lake, a 5,000 acre water body that is the main source of drinking water for Panama City and surrounding Bay County. The 2.5 acre infestation was on a 3.6 acre divided pond and both sections were treated. Treatment of the infestation was initiated by FWC in June 2013 at no expense to the property owners.
Bay County pond with no observed Giant Slavinia. Taken Oct 2013 by Derrek Fussell, FWC.
The pond continues to be monitored and, to date, there have not been any signs of living Salvinia molesta. We will continue to monitor the pond to make sure there is no re-establishment of giant salvinia. Investigations continue to try and learn more about the introduction of the pernicious species to this isolated pond.
Read more about the successful treatment regime FWC Biologists used to control giant salvinia in Northwest Florida. This was published in Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society’s publication “Aquatics” – see page 5.
WJHG 7 in Panama City ran this news story. Please see their webpage for additional information and video. “Invasive Plant Threatens Deer Point Lake“.
1 Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta), Weed Alert, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL, 2 pp.
2 The World’s Worst Weeds – Distribution and Biology. 1977 and 1991. L.G. Holm, D.L. Plucknett, J.V. Pancho, and J.P. Herberger. 609 pp.
3 Alien species: Monster fern makes IUCN invader list. 2013. Nature 498:37. G.M. Luque, C. Bellard, et al.
Matt Phillips is an Administrative Biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Invasive Plant Management Section in Tallahassee; (850) 617-9430; Mattv.email@example.com Scott Jackson is a University of Florida/ IFAS Sea Grant Extension Agent, Bay County; (850) 784-6105; LSJ@ufl.edu
Five tiger shrimp captured by shrimpers in Pensacola Bay.
Giant Tiger Prawn (Penaeus monodon):
This catchy phrase coined by Robert Turpin (Escambia County Marine Resources Division) describes a recent invader to our marine waters in the past decade. Many coastal residents are aware of the invasive lionfish that has invaded our local reefs but less have probably heard of the Asian Tiger Shrimp. This member of the penaeid shrimp family, the same family are edible white, brown, and pink shrimp come from, was brought to the United States in the 1960’s and 70’s as an aquaculture project. Over the years farmers have moved from Tiger Shrimp to the Pacific White Shrimp and the last known active farm was in 2004.
The Asian Tiger Shrimp can reach lengths of 12″
In 1988, two thousand of these shrimp were lost from a farm in South Carolina during a flood event. Only 10% of those were recaptured and some were collected as far away as Cape Canaveral. No more was heard from this release until 2006 when 6 were captured; one of those in Mississippi Sound near Dauphin Island. Each year since the number of reported captures has increased suggesting they are breeding.
In the Panhandle, one individual was caught in 2011 near Panama City and 5 were collected in 2012 in Pensacola Bay. They have been found in all Gulf coast states and there has been at least 1 record in each of the Florida Panhandle counties. The future impact of this shrimp to our area is still unknown but they have a high tolerance for salinity change and consume many types of benthic invertebrates. Tiger shrimp may out compete our native penaeid shrimps and could possibly feed directly on the juveniles. It is thought that they could possibly transmit diseases to our native shrimp.
Giant Tiger Prawn: This large shrimp, also known as the Asian Tiger Shrimp and the Black Tiger Shrimp, can reach lengths between 8-12 inches. It resembles are native edible penaeid shrimp but differs in that it has distinct black and yellow stripes.
NOAA scientists are interested in obtaining samples of this shrimp for DNA studies. It differs from other local penaid shrimp in that it is larger (8-12” long), dark in color (dark green to black) and has light stripes (white to cream colored). The larva and juveniles live in the bay. Sub adults will migrate offshore for breeding. They are a tropical species that have a low tolerance for cold temperatures, showing no growth below 20°C. If you think you have found one of these shrimp, record size location (GPS preferred), and email information to ExoticReports@MyFWC.com. You can also report to EDDMapS using the website or I’ve Got One! phone app. To learn more about Tiger Prawns view the USGS factsheet.
The nonnative Giant Tiger Prawn – also known as the Black Tiger Shrimp. Photo by David Knott, Bugwood.org
Japanese Climbing Fern can quickly cover natural vegetation. Spores and small plants can be potentially transported in pine straw. Climbing ferns are a problem for managed timber and home landscapes. Photo by L. Scott Jackson
Japanese Climbing Fern (Lygodium japonicum) and Old World Climbing Fern (Lygodium microphyllum) are presently the only non-native invasive ferns in Florida.
Both ferns reproduce and spread readily by wind-blown spores. Animals, equipment, and even people that move through an area with climbing ferns are very likely to pick up spores and move them to other locations on the property or even to other properties.
Japanese climbing fern is a delicate looking perennial climbing vine. It is capable of forming a dense mat-like thatch capable of covering trees and shrubs. Initially, it was introduced from Japan as an ornamental. It is scattered throughout the lower portions of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and south into central Florida. Further planting or cultivation of this vine is prohibited by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Old World climbing fern has been a problem for many years in central and south Florida but it is currently moving north. The northern edge of its advance is now just south of Marion County.
Adequate control of both climbing ferns has been achieved with multiple applications of glyphosate. Other herbicides have also been used to control Japanese climbing fern.
As with most invasive plants, repeated and correctly timed treatments are likely to be necessary.
For more information about climbing ferns contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office and read the following publication: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr133
UF IFAS Escambia County Extension
Northwest Florida can be a pond owner’s paradise. There is usually enough rainfall to keep ponds filled, catfish, bass, and brim are well adapted to the environmental conditions, and there is a long season to catch fish.
One of the biggest problems pond owners face is the constant struggle with pond vegetation. Some pond vegetation is good. It provides a cover for young fish, helps stabilize the shoreline or bank, and some vegetative species are attractive wildlife.
However some species are highly invasive and can completely overtake a pond. One such species is water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).
The water hyacinth is a floating plant, which if left unchecked and allowed to grow to its maximum potential, can weigh up to 200 tons per acre of water. In rivers, it can choke out other vegetation and make navigation difficult to impossible.
Water hyacinth, as an ornamental plant, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The plants intertwined and form huge floating mats which can root on muddy surfaces, as seen in the photo below.
The plant will be several inches tall, has showy lavender flowers, with rounded, shiny, smooth leaves. These leaves are attached to spongy stalks that help keep the plants afloat. The prolific roots are dark and feathery.
In Northwest Florida this pest commonly dies back in the winter. Unfortunately it is able to regrow when the weather and water warm.
Water hyacinth is not a native species. It is believed to have been introduced into the U.S. in 1884 at an exposition in New Orleans. Within 70 years of reaching Florida, the plant covered 126,000 acres of waterways (Schmitz et al. 1993).
Water hyacinth is on the FL DACS Prohibited Aquatic Plant List – 5B-64.011. According to Florida Statute 369.25, “No person shall import, transport, cultivate, collect, sell, or possess any noxious aquatic plant listed on the prohibited aquatic plant list established by the department without a permit issued by the department.”
To control a small infestation, the plants can be gathered from the surface, brought to the shore, left to dry and then disposed of in the garbage. There are biological control options—water hyacinth weevils will be useful in keeping the plant populations down.
The spongy petiole helps keeps the plant afloat.
Finally, chemical herbicide options may be the best alternative. University of Florida Aquatic Vegetation Specialist, Dr. Langeland, wrote Efficacy of Herbicide Active Ingredients Against Aquatic Weeds, a good publication that will help you to determine which herbicide will work best for different weeds.
NOTE: The middle of the summer is generally not the ideal time for applying herbicide on pond vegetation. For more information on weed control in Florida ponds, please see Weed Control in Florida Ponds. If you have any questions about identifying a pond weed, contact your local county Extension agent.