According to the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants, there are more than 3,300 native plant species and approximately 1,500 exotic (non-native) plant species in Florida.

What is an Exotic Plant?

  • Exotic: A species introduced to Florida, purposefully or accidentally, from its native range outside of Florida   
  • Native: A species whose natural range included Florida at the time of European contact (1500 AD)          
  • Naturalized Exotic: An exotic that sustains itself outside cultivation and its native range (it is still exotic; it has not "become" native)
  • Invasive Exotic: A naturalized exotic that is expanding its range into natural areas and disrupting naturally occurring native plant communities

Exotic plants are introduced accidentally through shipping materials or deliberately for ornamental or commercial purposes. Invasive exotics, or exotic pest plants, don't encounter the natural enemies in the U.S. that controlled their growth in their home range. This allows these plants to spread easily into our native plant communities. Not all exotic plants become pest plants, but for those that do, it can cause a reduction in biodiversity, loss of habitat and food sources for native insects, birds and other wildlife, and changes to natural ecological systems.

Nearly every land parcel acquired by Conservation 20/20 has come with invasive exotic plants that must be removed and controlled. Several methodologies are used, including mechanical work (mowing, mulching, and cutting), hand-pulling, herbicide application, prescribed fire, and biological control, such as USDA-released insects and cattle grazing.

View list of invasive exotic plant species in Lee County

The following websites include images of many invasive exotic plants commonly found in Florida: