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Wild Exotic Plants in Florida
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On this page - Cogongrass, Elephant grass,Schefflera, Climbing Cassia, Turk's Turban, Castor bean, Downy Rose Myrtle, Silky Sesban, Turkscap Mallow, Javanese Glorybower

Cogongrass - Imperata cylindrica

Cogongrass in bloom (Imperata cylindrica)

Category 1 Invasive plant

Family - Poaceae (Grasses)

Description - Perennial. Considered one of the worst top ten weeds worldwide, this plant reproduces by rhizomes as well as seed. Cogongrass is usually 2 to 4 feet in height, a white off center mid-vein on its leaves helps to distinguish this species from other grasses. Flowers year-round in South Florida. Originally from Southeast Asia, China & Japan. Cogongrass invades most types of Florida habitats from the upland forest to wetlands, forming dense mats of thatch that crowd out native plants.

Elephant grass, Napiergrass - Pennisetum purpureum

Elephantgrass thicket (Pennisetum purpureum) Elephantgrass flower head (Pennisetum purpureum)

Family - Poaceae

Habitat - Roadsides, Moist Ruderal, Ditch banks, Wet Prairie, Swamp margins

Description - Category 1 invasive plant, native to Africa. Elephant grass grows up to 16 feet high with stems to 3/4 inch diameter. Leaves are 12- 16 inches long with sharp finely serrated margins. Stems are hirsute (hairy) and yellow to purplish in color. Elephant grass spreads primarily by rhizomes forming dense thickets, flowers in late summer & fall.

Schefflera, Umbrella tree - Schefflera actinophylla

Schefflera tree (Schefflera actinophylla) Schefflera growing wild (Schefflera actinophylla) Schefflera tree, bright red berries

Family - Araliaceae

Habitat - Coastal strand, Flatwoods, Hammocks, Scrub

Description - Introduced category 1 invasive species to 40 feet tall with single or multiple greenish trunks. Leaves are palmately compound with 7-16 oblanceolate leaflets which are alternately arranged & shiny green on long petioles (leaf stems). Schefflera has red flowers in summer and fall that are on large inflorescence at the stem tips. Produces large numbers of seeds which are then spread by birds. Seedlings can sometimes be seen growing in the "boots" of our native Sabal palm fronds.

Climbing Cassia, Christmas Cassia - Senna pendula var.glabrata

Climbing Cassia flowers - Senna pendula var.glabrata Climbing Cassia leaves - Senna pendula var.glabrata

Family - Fabaceae

Habitat - Ruderal, Coastal Strand, Hammocks

Description - Category 1 invasive plant. Sprawling shrub to 13 feet tall, leaves alternate, pinnately compound with 3 -6 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are oblong, up to 1 1/2 inches long with largest at tip. Flowers are yellow to greenish-yellow to 1 1/2 inches or slightly more across with curved stamens, produced on racemes near tips of branch in late fall to early winter. Fruit is a brown smooth pod to 5 inches or more long containing numerous seeds.

Turk's Turban - Clerodendrum indicum L.

Turks Turban, Skyrocket (Clerodendrum indicum) fruit Turks Turban flowers Turks Turban, Skyrocket (Clerodendrum indicum) flower detail

Family - Lamiaceae

Habitat - Ruderal

Description - Introduced exotic plant, native to the Malay Archipelago. Semi-woody perennial shrub or annual in colder regions. Long, hollow stems are mostly un-branched & 6-9 feet long. Leaves are 4 - 6 inches long, arranged in whorls, elliptic in shape with entire, wavy margins. Numerous white flowers on large inflorescence from late summer into the fall.

Javanese Glorybower - Clerodendrum speciosissimum

Image - Javanese Glorybower Image - Javanese Glorybower flower cluster

Family - Lamiaceae

Description - Introduced, invasive - native to Indonesia, Java. Long used as landscape plant in Florida where it escapes from cultivation. Perennial shrub, 5-12 feet tall with large "fuzzy"cordate leaves up to 12 inches long. Produces clusters of red-orange flowers from spring through fall. Fruit is a 4 lobed fleshy dark blue to black berry, dispersed by birds. Spreads by suckering from its roots.

Castor bean - Ricinus communis

Castor bean plant Castor bean leaf Castor bean seed pods

Family - Euphorbiaceae

Habitat - Disturbed areas

Description - Introduced non-native plant, Castor bean has been cultivated for thousands of years and is believed to have originated in tropical Africa. Grows as a shrub or small tree and may be an annual or perennial depending on the local climate. the Castor bean plant is capable of attaining a height of 40+ feet in a tropical climate though it's more common in the 10 - 20 foot range in much of South Florida.

Large palmate leaves to nearly 24 inches wide with 6 or more lobes, margins toothed. Stems are herbaceous except on larger specimens the base of the main stem may become woody. The leaves & stems of Castor bean may be green, red or purple. Flowers are produced on an inflorescence in warm months followed by spiny capsules containing the seeds. All parts of the castor bean plant are poisonous, with the seeds being the most toxic.

Downy Rose Myrtle - Rhodomyrtus tomentosa

Rose Myrtle ( Rhodomyrtus tomentosa )

Family - Myrtaceae

Habitat - Pinelands & flatwoods, margins of lakes, marshes

Description - Invasive exotic perennial shrub, native to Asia. Grows from 6-12 feet tall. Introduced to Florida in the 1920s as an ornamental landscape plant. Rose myrtle produces 1-2 inch wide rose colored flowers in the spring from leaf axils. Leaves are simple, oppositely arranged, elliptic in shape with entire margins to about 3 inches long. Fruit is a purple globose berry 1/2 in. in diameter. Birds & mammals eat the fruit & disperse seeds. Forms dense thickets, crowding out native plants.

Silky Sesban - Sesbania sericea

Image - Danglepod (Sesbania herbacea)

Family - Fabaceae

Habitat - Margins of fresh water marshes, ponds, lakes, river and creek banks, other moist sites.

Description - Introduced annual or perennial shrub, subshrub, height 6 feet. Leaves alternate, pinnately compound, leaflets have pointed tips.

Flower- Yellow to orange, 1-1/2 inch. Fruit is a long, thin seed pod,
6 in. or more.

Turkscap Mallow - Malvaviscus penduliflorus

Turkscap Mallow (Malvaviscus penduliflorus DC) Turkscap Mallow (Malvaviscus penduliflorus DC) flower

Family - Malvaceae

Habitat - Ruderal, Old home sites, roadsides

Description - Not native, introduced from South America. Shrub to 10 feet tall, variable leaf forms alternately arranged. Leaves may be oval, cordate or lobed, hirsute or glabrous. Margins dentate or smooth, yellowish green to deep green in color. Habit of growth can become vine like, especially when growing in shade.

Flower - Pendent or semi-erect red tubular flower that never opens fully, protruding stamen.