According to the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants, there are 2,870 native plants. "Florida, with over 4,282 species of native or naturalized ferns and seed plants, is the third most floristically diverse state in the United States."  But what does that really mean?  What are the other 1,412 plants...exotics, invasive exotics?

What is an Exotic Pest 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, outside 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.


  • Approximately 31 percent of the plant species known to occur in Florida outside cultivation are introduced (non-natives growing on their own). That's 1,400-plus exotic species established and reproducing outside cultivation. Of that number, about 11 percent are considered invasive in natural areas by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, or FLEPPC (Cat I and Cat II).
  • The second-greatest threat to the 500-plus threat is direct habitat destruction via population growth, urban sprawl, etc.

Exotic plants are introduced accidentally through shipping materials or deliberately for ornamental or commercial purposes.  Invasive exotics or exotic pest plants don't have the natural enemies here that controlled their growth in their home range. This can free them to spread easily into our native plant communities. Not all exotic plants become pest plants in Florida's natural areas, but those that do 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.

Once conservation lands are acquired and land stewardship plans have been written for each of the preserves, these plans are implemented by county staff. Nearly every parcel acquired by the Conservation 20/20 Program has come with invasive exotic plants that need to be removed and controlled. Several methodologies are used to control these invasive exotic plants (depending on plant species, level of infestation and location -- wet or dry area).  Removal methods include mechanical (mowing, mulching, cutting), manual (hand pulling), herbicide application, biological control (USDA released insects, cattle, goats), and cultural practices (prescribed fire, water level manipulation).

Most notable invasive exotic plants on Conservation 20/20 preserves:

Australian Pine
Brazilian Pepper


Old World climbing fern
Cogon grass


View List of Invasive Exotic Species Found in Lee County

The following websites have photos of many plants commonly found in Florida:


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