Tension builds as two heroes sneak between the shadows. Violins swell ominously. Only one last open area to breech before they can reach that shining box that contains the magic button that can cause the destruction of the invading aliens and free the rest of mankind. The heroes breathe deeply, using the robotic watch style of the alien sentinel (look left…pause…look center…pause…look right…pause…) to time their move perfectly. As the sentinel looks right, they sprint across the open field, hoping against all hope to reach and press the game-changing button before the creature’s gaze moves left. Half-way to the button, something goes terribly wrong! Whoosh, ching, ba-dump! The soundtrack gives a final swell and fades away. The heroes seemingly disappear, until the camera pans away and up, revealing that what the heroes once thought was a field had actually been a body of water overtaken by an invasion of water-lettuce. They frantically swim, leaving us on the edge of our seats and then. Our imaginary screen darkens for a moment and when it appears once again, we see a caption: 10 years have passed. A decade later, the alien sentinel is still in place, still watching (look left…pause…look center…pause…look right…pause…), but there is little else recognizable remaining. The invading species has won, forever altering the habitat and structure of the native community that had once prospered there.
The above may sound like a movie, but change the role of the hero from human to our native plant species, and you find the invasion has indeed already begun. Our imaginary film serves as a simple way to illustrate the effects of an invasive species, and to open a dialogue about what each of us can do to stop the invasion.
Invasive plants are broken into two categories:
Category I – Alters native plant communities by displacing native species,changing community structures or ecological functions or hybridizing with natives. In our imaginary film, both the alien AND the water lettuce are Category I invasive species.
Category II- Increasing in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species. It is important to note that Category II invasive species can be re-assigned to Category I in the event their impact begins to fall in line with that category.
Not all invasive plants are prohibited for sale in Florida, and an invasive species can of course be native and purchased in other states. This makes knowledge the best tool in fighting invasive species. We challenge you to us the resource links below to become aware of some of the common invasive species found in Florida and where possible remove and replace them with native plants. Native plants have many benefits, including:
- Add beauty- being native, you can be sure they will thrive in our ecology
- Conserve water!
- Food and shelter- native plants provide this for our native butterflies, birds and other wildlife
- Save time and money- native plants require less maintenance and pest control efforts
If you locate invasive plants (or animals) as you stroll beautiful Florida you can also report them. Report both online at www.IveGot1.org, or report animals to 1-888-Ive-Got1 (1-888-483-468). There is even an IveGot1 Smartphone app for identifying and reporting. When reporting invasive plants and animals be ready with the following information:
- Your name & contact info
- Name, description, and or photo of the species
- Location (GPS, street address, good description of location and habitat)
Once you have reported, local and/or state verifiers validate your entry and the data is used to help guide whether further action is needed to control the species.
Join Our Task Force!
Our second challenge is a call to arms! Join the fight against the invasion with us! The GTM Research Reserve has a group of volunteers who serve as an invasive species task force, and this team has helped eradicate invasive species within the reserve’s 73,000 acres and beyond. They can’t continue winning this fight alone though! Don’t let them become the last heroes, join them! Learn more about the task force and the work the GTM Research Reserve and its volunteers strive to accomplish at the Volunteer Wikispace Stewardship Page. Also, take our short invasive plant survey and get involved!