March 8th: Tropical Soda Apple (Solanum viarum) & Alligator Weed (Alternanthera philoxeroide)
Tropical Soda Apple Photo Credit: Jeffrey Mullahey, UF, Bugwood.org
Tropical Soda Apple: Florida ranchers know Tropical Soda Apple (TSA) as the “Plant from Hell”. The plant is a native of South America. It was first noticed in south Florida, but its seeds survive in the digestive tract of animals and it spread north through the movement of hay and cattle. TSA plants are covered with thorns and can make large sections of pasture nearly useless for livestock. Concerted efforts to lessen the population of TSA since its arrival have reduced the populations in pastures but it persists in sheltered or waste locations. Cattle, birds, deer and feral hogs ingest the mature fruits and spread the plants to loafing and browsing areas that may be inaccessible to mechanical treatment with anything larger than a hoe. According to Dr. Jeff Mullahey, who has been working on TSA since its appearance in south Florida, one plant can produce 40,000-50,000 seeds with seed germination ranging from 75%-100%. The seeds remain viable for at least three years. Be on the lookout for these while engaged in outdoor activities.
In South Florida, populations of the tropical soda apple leaf beetle (Gratiana boliviana) have had some efficacy as a biological control. However in North Florida the efforts to establish populations of these beetles from TSA’s native habitat have been stymied by their inability to overwinter in our colder temperatures. Although you won’t want to pull them up barehanded, isolated plants can be controlled by mechanical means. Herbicides effective on TSA can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw097, or contact your local Extension agent.
For more information contact the author Jed Dillard, Livestock & Forages Extension Agent by phone at 850-342-0187.
Alligator Weed photo by Vic Ramey courtesy of UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida
Alligator Weed: This highly invasive aquatic weed, which is a native of South America, was first discovered in Florida in 1894 and is believed to have been transmitted through ballast water. Alligator Weed is usually found as sprawling mats across the surface of water. Although classified aquatic, it can be found along shorelines or dry land.
This plant is a category II invasive and also an aquatic weed. The following information from the Center for Aquatic and Invasive plants, “This species 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 Florida Department of Environmental Protection. See 5B-64.011 for more information.”
There are several biological controls of Alligator Weed, such as the Alligatorweed Flea Beetle. When they attack mats of alligatorweed, the entire mat will begin to turn yellow and eventually turn brown to die. Significant control can be achieved in 3 months once beetles are established. For more information about this biological control and others, please see the following IFAS extension publication, Alligatorweed flea beetle Agasicles hygrophila https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in831.
Chemical control is also possible with glyphosate, imazapyr and several other products. Always read the label carefully when using any herbicide. For more information please consult Efficacy of Herbicide Active Ingredients Against Aquatic Weeds (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag262).
For more information, contact the author Matt Orwat, Horticulture Extension Agent 850-638-6180.
March 7th: Eurasian Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), Tiger Prawn (Penaeus monodon), The Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)
Myriophyllum spicatum photo by Alison Fox, University of Florida, Bugwood.org
Eurasian Water Milfoil: Eurasian water milfoil is a submerged aquatic plant that can be found in northwest Florida in lakes, rivers, and coastal marshes. Water milfoil forms a dense mat of vegetation that can block sunlight and habitat for native plants. These mats can increase water temperatures and interfere with boat traffic, fish habitat, and native aquatic plant species.
Eurasian milfoil was first documented in Florida in 1964. It was reportedly planted by aquarium plant dealers. It is still used today in the aquarium industry and obtained through suppliers and through internet sales. This plant is listed as a category II on the Florida Exotic Species Pest Plant Council List, which means it has the potential to overtake native submerged plant communities.
The spread of Eurasian milfoil can be caused by the breaking of stems and roots, which can be carried by boats, engines and trailers to other lakes and coastal marshes. To help prevent spread of Eurasian water milfoil to Florida’s waters, always clean off your boat, motor and trailer at the ramp to avoid transporting vegetative stems to other areas. In addition, never release or dispose of aquarium plants or animals into local waterways.
For more information, contact the author Chris Verlinde, Marine Science Agent 850-623-3868.
Giant Tiger Prawn Photo Credit: FWC photo by Michelle Sempsrott
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 penaid shrimp but differs in that it has distinct black and yellow stripes. It was brought to the U.S. from the Indo-Pacific region as an aquaculture product. There was an accidental release of 2,000 animals from a South Carolina farm in 1988. Reports of this shrimp in the wild have increased over time. 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 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. It is thought that they could become serious competition for our native penaid shrimp and could possible transmit diseases. If you think you have found one of these shrimp, record size location (GPS preferred) and email information to ExoticReports@MyFWC.com. To learn more about this species view the USGS factsheet.
For more information, contact the author Rick O’Connor, Sea Grant/Marine Sciences Agent 850-475-5230.
Image by Dr. Steve A Johnson 2005.
The Cuban Tree Frog: was introduced into Florida as a stowaway on vehicles and plants in the 1920’s. As of 2013, breeding populations have been recorded as far north as Georgia. Cuban Tree frogs have larger toepads and eyes than any of the native species. Being larger in size, the Cuban Tree frog out-competes other tree frogs for resources, to the point that they are predators of Florida’s tree frogs and inhibitors of native tadpoles. Juvenile Cuban Tree frogs can be distinguished from natives by their red eyes and hind legs with blue bones. Three-foot-long sections of 1.5 inch diameter PVC pipe can be placed in the landscape to monitor for tree frog species. Should Cubans be found, they should be reported and euthanized. For additional details visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw259.
For more information contact the author Sheila Dunning, Commercial Horticulture Agent 850-689-5850.
March 6th: Climbing Ferns (Lygodium sp.) & Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense)
Japanese Climbing Fern (Lygodium japonicum) and Old World Climbing Ferns (Lygodium microphyllum): are presently the only non-native invasive ferns in Florida. Both ferns reproduce and spread readily by wind-blown spores. A single fertile leaflet can produce 28,600 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. In 2005, they covered 122,787 acres of Florida.
Japanese Climbing Fern
Lygodium japonicum photo by Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
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. It climbs very quickly to the crowns of pine trees, which can move fire into the growth points during controlled burns, making it a concern on forested lands.
Old World climbing fern has been a problem for many years in central and south Florida but it is currently moving north. The first plant was documented in 1958 by a nursery in Delray Beach. By 1965, it
was found in natural areas of Marion County. The northern edge of its advance by 2012 was Hernando County on the Gulf side and Duval County on the Atlantic coast.
Adequate control of both climbing ferns has been achieved with multiple applications of glyphosate and/or metsulfuron. Other herbicides, such as triclopyr and imazapic have also been used to control
Old World Climbing Fern Lygodium microphyllum photo by Ken A. Langeland, University of Florida, Bugwood.org
Japanese climbing fern. However, when the plant is growing in areas adjacent to wetlands or water, fewer herbicides are registered for those sites. Hand digging is also an option, except when the fern is producing spore covered leaflets. Disturbing it then would propagate more plants.
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 publications: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr133 and http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss-agr-21.
For more information contact Les Harrison, Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent by phone at 850-926-3931.
Ligustrum sinense photo by James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org
Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense): Chinese Privet is a non-native shrubby tree commonly found in forested areas in northern Florida. This eastern invader thrives in low-lying, wet areas near forest openings and fence rows. Other species of the Ligustrum genus are commonly grown in landscapes. Chinese Privet can be identified in the spring by its small white flowers which omit a foul odor. Birds easily spread this weed by feeding on and excreting the fruit which contain many seeds. Additionally, Chinese Privet can spread by underground plant structures called rhizomes which allow new shoots to sprout up from the ground from a mother plant.
For control options of Chinese Privet, see https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FR/FR25000.pdf or contact your local Extension agent.
For more information, contact the author Josh Thompson, Regional Agriculture/IPM Extension Agent 850-482-9620.
March 5th: Torpedo Grass (Panicum repens) & Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)
Torpedo Grass Photo Credit: Graves Lovell, Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, www.bugwood.org
Torpedo Grass: Torpedo grass (Panicum repens) is an invasive weed that invades lawns, flowerbeds, landscapes and wetlands. Even if introduced into a small area, this weed can rapidly spread to become a monoculture and crowd out native vegetation. Its name is derived from the hard, sharp point of the rhizome that looks like a torpedo.
Native to Africa and Asia, Torpedo Grass was introduced to the United States around 1876, primarily through seed used for forage crops. The real infestation came in the early part of the 20th century when the USDA imported and distributed seed for planting pastures as forage for cattle. It proved to be inferior for use as a forage crop. Now it is found in the Gulf South from Florida to Texas and in other coastal areas around the world.
Torpedo grass is nearly impossible to completely eliminate, so management of it is not a matter of how to get rid of it completely but instead how to prevent it from taking over an area. The only way that this can be accomplished is with repeated and frequent efforts. You will have to scout regularly and any time torpedo grass is seen, promptly take action. Prevention of torpedo grass centers on removal of the entire plant, as the plant can regrow from fragments left behind in the soil. There are few control options for torpedo grass. Options will depend on its location and surrounding vegetation. For management in lawns please refer to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep387 for specific herbicide controls based predominate lawn species. For management of invasive species in natural areas, refer to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wg209 for a comprehensive list of species and their controls. As always, refer to instructions on herbicide label to ensure proper usage.
For more information contact the author Brooke Saari, Sea Grant Marine Science Extension Agent, 850-689-5850.
Hydrilla: Hydrilla is a perennial submerged plant that grows in dense mats up to the surface of freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, springs, and rivers. Growing at the rapid rate
Hydrilla Photo Credit: Vic Ramey, UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.
of an inch a day and up to 25 feet long, hydrilla shades out beneficial native plants and clogs waterways, preventing flood control, boating, and fishing. In dense populations, the plant can alter oxygen levels and water chemistry and survive in a wide variety of nutrient conditions, sunlight availability, and temperatures.
Originating in Asia, it was introduced to Florida (likely through Tampa and Miami) in the 1950’s as part of the worldwide aquarium trade. Hydrilla has become a very expensive problem for the state. Millions are spent annually on chemical and mechanical treatment simply to maintain the plant. Adding to the problem is the fact that it is still available commercially, even though it has been placed on the US Federal Noxious Weed List. In the United States, the plant is found as far north as Connecticut and west to California and Washington.
Methods of control include mechanical harvesters and chopping machines (although fragments of hydrilla left in the water can regrow), introduced insects and fish (particularly the Chinese grass carp), aquatic herbicides, and lake drawdowns. Hydrilla is often transported from one body of water to the other by unknowing boaters moving fragments of the plant left on boats, trailers, or live wells, so learning to identify the plant and cleaning boats before leaving the ramp are helpful in prevention. Visit the Extension Hydrilla IPM site for more helpful tips.
For more information contact the author Carrie Stevenson, Coastal Sustainability Agent at 850-475-5230.
March 4th: Benghal Dayflower (Commelina benghalensis), Chinese Tallow (Sapium sebiferum), & Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes):
Benghal Dayflower Photo by Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia
Benghal Dayflower (Commelina benghalensis): Also called Tropical spiderwort, is an invasive weed that creeps into nurseries, lawns, pastures and crop fields. It was first observed in the early 1990’s in Florida but can now be found throughout the panhandle and central Florida. This weed is on the Federal Noxious Weed List as well as the Florida Noxious Weed List. It has been found in California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico as well as Florida.
This plant produces above ground and below ground flowers and
Resistant Benghal Dayflower after treatment with glyphosate. Photo by Jennifer Bearden.
can also propagate via cut stems. Thus light cultivation and mowing will cause this aggressive weed to spread. Benghal Dayflower is extremely tolerant of glyphosate.
Benghal Dayflower can be distinguished from other dayflowers in Florida by:
- Violet rather than blue flowers,
- Broader rather than longer leaves (Length to width ratio is less than 3:1),
- Presence of hairs on tops and edges of leaves,
- Presence of white, subterranean stems and flowers.
Physical methods sometimes cause infestations to spread rather than controlling them. There are no know biological control methods, although maintain weed-free ground cover helps out compete the dayflower. Chemical control methods are dictated by the location of the weed. If it is in a lawn or pasture, 2,4-D can be used.
For more information contact the author Jennifer Bearden, Agriculture Extension Agent, 850-689-5850.
Chinese Tallow Photo Credit Cheryl McCormick, UF, www.bugwood.org
Chinese Tallow (Sapium sebiferum): Chinese Tallow a.k.a. Popcorn Tree: Benjamin Franklin has been blamed for introducing the invasive exotic Chinese Tallow tree to the Southeast when he mailed seeds to a planter after one of his trips to London in the late 1700’s. However, recent DNA work has traced the invasive strain to federal scientists’ importations in 1905. No matter. The “Popcorn Tree,” as it’s also called because of its white seeds, has invaded the Gulf of Mexico coast from Texas to Florida, especially the wetlands and bottomland forests. A mature tree may produce as many as 100,000 seeds annually. These seeds can be spread by birds or moving water and expedite the trees’ takeover of habitat.
The sap and berries are toxic to humans and livestock. It has been planted for its red fall color, but it crowds out native wetland species such as black gum and red maple, both noted for their red fall leaves. Its tolerance to flooding and saltwater can also make it a threat to bald cypress.
Recently research by scientists of the US Forest Service and others has shown that dissolved oxygen and pH levels in the leaf litter of the tallow tree are fatal to the early stage eggs of the leopard frog. While tallow trees provide a nectar source for bees and have been investigated as a biofuel source, the damage to wetlands caused by these invaders more than offsets the positive aspects of the plant.
To control this species, small seedlings may be hand pulled, especially in wet areas, but care should be taken to leave no root pieces to resprout. Herbicides including triclopyr can control Chinese Tallow. Larger trees can be controlled by “Hack and Squirt” or “Cut stump” applications and smaller sprouts can be controlled by a basal bark application. These methods of control are described at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag245 and can be used on other woody pests such as chinaberry or coral ardisia. More information is available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag148 and http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/676. For local assistance, contact your county UF IFAS Extension office.
For more information contact Jed Dillard, Livestock & Forages Extension Agent by phone at 850-342-0187.
Water Hyacinth Photo Credit: Vic Ramey, UF/IFAS
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes): The water hyacinth is a floating non-native plant, which if left unchecked and allowed to grow to its maximum potential, can weigh up to 200 tons per acre of water. Once it gets into rivers, it can choke out other vegetation and make navigation difficult if not impossible, because the plants will grow intertwined and form huge floating mats that can root on muddy surfaces. Water hyacinth is a wolf in sheep’s clothing—it is a highly ornamental plant. The plant will be several inches tall with showy lavender flowers and rounded, shiny, smooth leaves. These leaves are attached to spongy stalks that help keep the plants afloat. The prolific roots are dark and feathery. Although here in northwest Florida most of it dies back in the winter, it is able to regrow when the weather and water warm up. This weed can be controlled by physical removal, through biological control options—water hyacinth weevils will be useful in keeping the plant populations down—and by chemical means. For more information on hyacinth and other weed control in Florida ponds, please see the UF IFAS publication Weed Control in Florida Ponds. If you have any questions about identifying a pond weed, contact your friendly local county Extension agent.
For more information contact the author Libbie Johnson Agriculture Extension Agent, 850-475-5230.