Melaleuca quinquenervia - introduced species

Melaleuca quinquenervia - the punk tree. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

Introduced Species

  • Casuarina tree and Brazilian pepper are among the introduced species found in pinelands

Taking into account all the species introduced into the Everglades, Melaleuca quinquenervia, commonly referred to as the melaleuca or broad-leaved paperbark, poses the greatest threat. Forming dense stands, this introduced species out-competes most of the native plantlife, greatly decreasing diversity. Originally imported for its swamp drying abilities, it looses more water than native wetland species. This has resulted in the drying up of marshlands. It is extremely tolerant of fire, which further increases its range across the everglades.

Casuarina

Casuarina. Photo courtesy National Park Service

Introduced from Australian and the East Indies during the late 1800s, the casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia) tree is considered an invasive pest in south Florida. It grows rapidly along shorelines, decreasing the biodiversity of native species. Due to its shallow root system, this tree is easily uprooted by strong winds, resulting in beach erosion and destruction of sea turtle nesting habitat.

Brazilian pepper

Brazilian pepper. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) is a particularly invasive species. It was originally introduced as a landscape ornamental, and has spread rapidly through seed dispersal by birds. As an invader of pinelands, sawgrass marshes, coastal prairies, and hammocks, the Brazilian pepper is considered a serious threat to the native flora and fauna of the Everglades region.

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Glossary terms on page:

  • diversity: refers to the variety of species within a given association, areas of high diversity are characterized by a great variety of species.
  • biodiversity: in an ecosystem, variability among living organisms from all sources, sometimes measured by the total number of species or other taxonomic groupings, and their relative abundances.