Cogongrass Photo Credit: Chris Evans, Illionois Wildlife Action Plan, www.bugwood.org
Cogongrass is one of the 10 worst weeds in the world. This grass is an aggressive grower and forms colonies causing loss of productive forest areas, severe degradation of habitat, and economic issues. Since its introduction in the 1900s, Cogongrass has spread to most of the counties in Florida. Reproduction occurs through seed production and the creeping rhizome system. This plant is prolific once established with the creation of a very dense rhizome system that retains water and releasing of allelopathic chemicals reducing competition from other plants.
Cogongrass is yellow/green in color with an off-set midrib and a fluffy white seed head. Cogongrass is drought and shade tolerant. Once this grass invades, it will quickly displace the native species and requires frequent and intensive controls.
Early detection is best since a small infestation is easier and cheaper to treat. The larger infestations become more time intensive, expensive, and difficult. There are treatment options for these infestations, make sure that specific instructions are followed and treatment is repeated.
For more information on the biology of this plant and various treatment options visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wg202. Also, by contacting your local UF/IFAS Extension office for assistance and information.
Cogongrass is a fire-adapted species, thriving where fire is a regular occurrence. In fact, the threat of wildfires greatly increases with the presence of cogongrass, a non-native invasive species. Cogongrass fires burn hotter and faster than native grass fires. This footage, shot in Baldwin County, Alabama, demonstrates how destructive a cogongrass fire can be to native vegetation.
Tawny Crazy Ant (Nylanderia fulva):
Cleaning up large piles of dead ants are a daily cleanup chore for this homeowner. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS Extension Okeechobee County
Nylanderia fulva is part of the group of ants called “crazy ants” due to their erratic and quick movements. These ants are medium to small and goldish brown to reddish brown in color. The Tawny Crazy Ants nest in large numbers in leaf litter, soil, rotten logs, under potted plants and along underground electrical conduits.
Nylanderia fulva is a nuisance to humans. They infest gardens, sidewalks and other areas of human traffic. They cause damage to electrical lines. They also displace other native ant species due to their large colony size.
This ant, Nylanderia fulva, has been confused with several other ants such as the Nylanderia pubens and Nylanderia guatemalensis.
Controlling the bug population in your garden and around your home will help decrease the likelihood of Tawny Crazy Ants invading. Avoid transporting plant material, mulches and such to uninfested areas. Granular baits can be used to control smaller populations but large populations will probably need a professional pest control service.
The Cuban Treefrog: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 Treefrogs have larger toepads and eyes than any of the native species. Being larger in size, the Cuban Treefrog out-competes other treefrogs for resources, to the point that they are predators of Florida’s treefrogs and inhibitors of native tadpoles.
Juvenile Cuban Treefrogs 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 treefrog species. Should Cubans be found, they should be reported and euthanized. For additional details visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw259.
Would you like to be a Citizen Scientist? You can help Dr. Steve Johnson at the University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation by reporting suspected Cuban Treefrog sightings. For more information on how you can become a Citizen Scientist, visit The Cuban Treefrog Citizen Scientist Project.
For more information contact the author Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County Commercial Horticulture Agent 850-689-5850.
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata):
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 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.
Hydrilla Photo Credit: Vic Ramey, UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.
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, UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County Coastal Sustainability Agent at 850-475-5230.
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. 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.
The nonnative Giant Tiger Prawn – also known as the Black Tiger Shrimp. Photo by David Knott, Bugwood.org
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 penaeid 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, UF/IFAS Escambia County Extension – Sea Grant and Marine Science Extension Agent, 850-475-5230.
Climbing Ferns (Lygodium japonicum and Lygodium microphyllum):
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.
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 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.
Old World Climbing Fern has moved northward from South Florida into Central Florida. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org
Attractive red berries entice homeowners to use as a landscape plant but coral ardisia can quickly dominate adjacent natural areas. photo courtesy of Les Harrison
Coral ardisia is also known as coral berry, spice berry, and scratchthroat. It was introduced into Florida in the early 1900’s for ornamental purposes.
In the ensuing years, it has since it escaped cultivation and has become established in hardwood hammocks and other moist woods of natural areas and grazing lands. Populations can currently found in Florida, Louisiana and Georgia.
This evergreen sub-shrub reaches a height of 1.5 to 6 feet and tends to grow in multi-stemmed clumps. Leaves are alternate, 8 inches long, dark green above, waxy, without hairs, and have scalloped margins and calluses in the margin notches. Flowers are typically pink to white in stalked axillary clusters, usually drooping below the foliage. The fruit is a bright red, globose, single-seeded berry, measuring approximately 0.25 inches in diameter. White-berried populations are also known to exist.
Coral ardisia is classified a Category I weed on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant List. Control of coral ardisia may be accomplished by two methods. A low-volume foliar application of Garlon 4 or Remedy provides suppression of this plant. Complete foliar coverage is essential to success and re-treatment will be necessary for complete control. Basal bark applications with Garlon 4 or Remedy in an oil carrier can also be utilized for suppressing this invasive weed. Do not apply more than 8 quarts of Remedy or Garlon 4 per acre and treat no more than ten percent of the total grazed area if applying greater than two quarts per acre.
For local assistance, contact your county UF IFAS Extension office.
For more information contact Les Harrison, UF/IFAS Extension Wakulla County – Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent by phone at 850-926-3931.
Will Sheftall Natural Resources Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County exams the impacts of invasive coral ardisia on local urban forests in Northwest Florida.
Wild Hogs(Sus scrofa):
Wild Hogs, also called Feral Hogs, are not native to the U.S. Wild hogs are highly adaptable and can find suitable habitat easily. Wild hogs can be all shapes, sizes and colors since they are hybrids of many different breeds. Wild hogs sometimes resemble their domestic relatives but sometimes resemble their Eurasian backgrounds.
Wild hogs are probably the most prolific large mammals in the world. They reach sexual maturity at a young age. Females have multiple litters of 3-8 piglets per year. Natural mortality rates are low. Wild hog females and young live and travel in groups called sounders. Sounders typically have 1 to 3 adults and several young. When females reach maturity, they either stay with the sounder or they go out and form a new sounder with other young females. Young males leave the sounder alone at about 16 months.
Wild hogs are opportunistic omnivores that feed by rooting and grazing. This rooting behavior is why we consider them to be a pest. The impact of wild hogs on the environment is soil erosion, decreased water quality, spread of other invasive plants, damage to agricultural crops, and damage to native plants and animals. They have been documented as threats to threatened and endangered species. They can significantly impact populations of reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, ground nesting birds and even deer.
Wild hogs pose a health risk to humans because they can carry numerous diseases and parasites. Care should be taken when handling wild hogs. Wear gloves, cover any open wounds, and wear clothing that can be cleaned thoroughly.
Wild hog damage to pond bank. Photo by Jennifer Bearden
Human hunting is the most significant cause of mortality in wild hogs, although hunting alone will not control hog populations in a good habitat. The most effective way to remove wild hogs from a location is a combination of trapping and shooting.
In Florida, wild hogs may be hunted year round on private land (with permission of the landowner) and at night with no permit required. Hogs may be trapped year round. Wild hogs cannot be trapped and released onto public land. Trapped wild hogs can only be transported with a permit from FDACS) to slaughter or to an approved Feral Swine Holding Facility. For more information on Wild Hogs, go to: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw322 and http://www.myfwc.com/hunting/by-species/wild-hog/ .
Red Lionfish are a predatory reef fish that are non-native invasive species and have spread throughout Florida Waters. They are members of the family Scorpaenidae whose members are venomous and the lionfish is no exception. This fish is relatively small ranging from 10-12 inches in length and have a zebra-like appearance with long, showy pectoral fins. They have a row of long dorsal spines that contain venom glands. Their native range is the South Pacific and Indian Oceans and preferred habitat is on offshore reef structures. These fish are considered to be voracious eaters feeding on native fish, reducing vital native populations, and competing for food with native fish such as grouper and snapper.
With few predators, these fish are thriving in Florida waters, even in the northern Gulf of Mexico. They reproduce often, under good conditions as often as every 3-4 days, with eggs hatching after about two days. They also consume a variety of local species. Research has found in some cases there has been an 80% decline in reef fish recruitment and loss of some economically important species. These fish are able to expand their stomachs for large meals and can survive starvation for over 12 weeks. Lionfish are an invasive species in our local waters and removal is encouraged.
The most effective control of this species is removal by spearfishing; though some recent reports of hook and line capture using live bait have occurred. Lionfish are cryptic and nocturnal but local divers have found them hovering near reefs at midday. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) changed regulations to increase harvesting opportunities. Such changes include no requirement for a recreational fishing license when using spearing devices (pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, handheld net, or spearing devices marked for use on lionfish), and no recreational or commercial bag limit; though recreational fishing license is required for other fishing methods. Check the FWC regulations before fishing or diving for these species.
Lionfish are venomous, must be handled carefully, venom glands occur on the dorsal, pelvic and anal spines. Lionfish sightings can be reported at 877.786.7267, the newly released FWC lionfish app,or (if in the Pensacola area) the lionfish map. If stung the wound can be treated with warm (but not scalding) water. You may need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Rarely are stings fatal unless the person has an allergic reaction. The Poison Help Hotline can be reached at 800.222.1222. Inshore sighting information is being collected by Florida Sea Grant in Escambia County to track the movement of these species. You can fill out the online report on the USGS website or the REEF website and stay up to date on research as it pertains to this species at the new NOAA lionfish portal and Florida Sea Grant.
For more information contact the author Rick O’Connor, UF/IFAS Escambia County Extension – Sea Grant and Marine Science Extension Agent, 850-475-5230.
Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera):
Large heart-shaped leaves completely cover this fence-row in Bay County. Photo by Julie McConnell.
Air potato is a tall climbing herbaceous plant that is in the yam family and can overtake natural and urban areas in a very short time. Air Potato uses twining tendrils that allow it to quickly climb over shrubs, trees, and man-made structures. The large heart-shaped leaves and potato looking “bulbils” that hang from the vine make identification fairly easy. The bulbils spread the growth of the plant, along with underground tubers. The plant will die back during the winter, but unless the vines, bulbils and underground tubers are removed, it will come back in the spring. The air potato is native to Asia and was introduced in Florida in the 1905. The potato is not good to eat and in some cases, may be poisonous.
There are a number of ways to control this species, and using a combination of methods may lead to greater success. Eliminating the vines and bulbils by collecting them, be sure to dispose of them where they will not be spread to other areas. The bulbils and underground tubers cannot survive freezing temperatures, so placing them in a freezer for a day and then disposing of them will help eliminate new growth.
Some cites in Florida have sponsored activities that involve the community in gathering air potato and other invasive species. Collecting the bulbils and underground tubers is easiest to do during the winter, when the green vegetation has dies back.
Herbicide treatments are best when applied during the late part of the growing season when plants are sending carbohydrates to the root system this is usually August through October. Wait as late as possible but before the leaves start turning yellow to apply. Yearly treatments may be needed to eventually eliminate the plant entirely. Apply herbicides according to the label on the herbicide container and apply with caution as not to spray other plants. For more information on types and strengths of herbicides to use in the fight against air potato, click here. If you have questions on using herbicides contact your local county extension office.
Biological controls are being tested in various parts of Florida using a beetle that was found to dine on air potato vegetation and tubers at different life stages. For more information on biological controls, click here.
Click here for an identification card for the air potato. For more information contact the author Chris Verlide, UF/IFAS Santa Rosa County Extension – Sea Grant Extension Agent, 850-623-3868.
Air Potato can spread quickly along the ground and into trees. Photo by Julie McConnell (click for larger image)