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Wild Exotic Plants in Florida
Page 2 of 4

On this page - Australian Pine, Bowstring Hemp, Caesarweed, Lead Tree, Rattle Box, Sea Hibiscus, Natal Plum, Strawberry Guava, Two-leafed Nightshade, Papaya

Bowstring Hemp - Sansevieria hyacinthoides

Bowstring Hemp, Mother-in laws tongue (Sansevieria hyacinthoides)

Family - Agavaceae

Native to Africa. Perennial herbaceous category 2 plant with waxy, mottled leaves. Height to about 3 feet. Dry to moist sites, primarily on and around old home sites. This plant is one of over fifty species of Sansevieria,forms large dense patches spreading from rhizomes. Native to Africa. As the name implies fibers from the leaves have been and are used to make string and rope.

Caesarweed - Urena lobata

Ceasarweed (Urena lobata), leaves and flowers

Family - Malvaceae, (Hibiscus family)

Description - Perennial shrub. Height to 10 feet, small pink flower, many seeds with tiny hooks are produced on a burr and "hitch-hike" a ride on any animal passing through, dispersing seeds along the animals route. Widespread in various Florida habitats, this invasive exotic plant forms scattered dense thickets in the wild, crowding out native plants.

Lead Tree - Leucaena leucocephal

Lead Tree leaves (Leucaena leucocephala) Lead Tree flower clusters Lead tree seedpods

Family - Fabaceae

Habitat - West Indies, escapes from cultivation.

Description - Shrub or small tree to about 30 feet. Leaves alternate, bipinnately compound up to a foot long, each with 10 - 20 pairs of opposite, oblong leaflets.

Flower - Clusters of white/creamy white puffball, 3/4 inch in diameter. Fruit is a flattened reddish-brown or brown pod.

Rattle Box, Spanish Gold - Sesbania punicea

Sesban (Sesbania punicea) flowers Sesban tree seedpods

Family - Fabaceae

Description - Small tree reaching 6-8 feet often forming dense thickets. Leaf is alternate, compound, 5-7 inches long with 7-16 pairs of 1 inch elliptical leaflets.

Flower- Orange-red pea-like flowers in hanging clusters spring through early summer. Fruit is a brown legume ending in a sharp point, 3 to 4 inches long with 4 conspicuous longitudinal wings.

Sea Hibiscus, Seaside Mahoe - Hibiscus tiliaceus

Sea Hibiscus yellow flower (Hibiscus tiliaceus L.) Sea Hibiscus red flower (Hibiscus tiliaceus L.)

Family - Malvaceae

Habitat - Ruderal, coastal areas, roadsides

Description - Not native, category 2 exotic plant. Large shrub, small tree to 25 feet in height with a spreading habit of growth. Leaves are alternate, broadly cordate with pubescent lower surface.

Flower - Hibiscus type flower, yellow at opening, turning reddish-orange by days end.

Natal Plum - Carissa macrocarpa

Natal Plum flowers and leaves (Carissa macrocarpa) Natal Plum fruit (Carissa macrocarpa)

Family - Apocynaceae

Habitat - Escapes from cultivation, dry sandy soils

Description - Introduced shrub to 20 feet tall is widely cultivated, several hybrids produced. Dark green leaves are 2-3 inches long, opposite, ovate and have a glossy upper surface. Branches have 'Y' shaped spines to 3 inches long.

Flower - Fragrant 2 inch white flowers have 5 overlapped petals with a waxy look. Fruit is a red berry about 2 inches long.

Strawberry Guava - Psidium cattleianum

Strawberry Guava fruit (Psidium cattleianum Sabine) Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleianum Sabine) leaf

Family - Myrtaceae

Habitat - Escapes from cultivation into wet areas.

Description - Category I invasive plant. Small tree or large shrub to 25 feet tall, grey to reddish-brown peeling bark, leaves are opposite with entire margins, elliptic to oblong shaped to 3 inches long.

Flower - Single white flowers produced from leaf axils, are just over 1 inch wide with many white and yellow stamens. Fruit is a purplish-red globose berry to about 2 1/2 inches long containing many seeds.

Two-leafed Nightshade - Solanum diphyllum

Twoleaf nightshade shrub (Solanum diphyllum) Twoleaf nightshade fruit (Solanum diphyllum)

Family - Solanaceae

Habitat - Ruderal, escapes from cultivation. Rare

Description - Category 2 exotic plant. Up to 6 feet in height, leaves in pairs with 1 leaf larger, deep green, smooth, 1-3 inches long

Flower - Clusters of white flowers with yellow antlers - similar to the Black Nightshade plant, fruit is a 1/2 inch round, hard berry, yellow to orange in color.

Papaya - Carica papaya

Papaya tree in the wild (Carica papaya)

Family - Caricaceae

Description - Introduced. Erect, un-branched soft trunk 6-20 feet (average 10') with umbrella like canopy of deeply palmate 7 lobed leaves borne on 24" long petioles. Bark is green to light brown.

Flower- Yellow, trumpet shaped, 2 inches. Fruit 3 1/2 inch, round to pear shaped.

Habitat - Hammocks, shell mounds, primarily near the coast.

Australian Pine - Casuarina cristata

Australian pine tree on riverbank Australian pine, close-up of branchlets

Family - Casuarinaceae

Description - Introduced to Florida in the 1800's the Australian pine is listed as a category 1 invasive plant and is illegal to plant in many parts of Florida.

Widely used as a landscape tree it is now a common sight in south Florida, particularly on beach dunes and the shorelines of brackish and fresh waterways. Australian pine is not a pine at all and the "needles" are actually segmented branchlets - the leaves are very tiny, scale-like and are produced in whorls at the joints of these branchlets. Forms dense monocultures crowding out native plants, like some other exotic plants it also produces allelopathic compounds which prevent other plants from growing.