Exotic & Invasive Flora of the Genius Preserve

An exotic plant is defined as one that has been either intentionally or accidentally introduced to an area outside of its native range. They can occur as all habits of plants — as trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns and vines. Exotic species can be further categorized as invasive exotics and naturalized exotics. 

Invasive exotics not only survive outside their native range, their populations tend to expand aggressively due to the absence of natural controls. This can eventually displace or eliminate native plant communities and result in a monoculture of the invasive plant species. Invasive exotic plants tend to impair the quality and usefulness of the habitat to wildlife; they contribute to the destruction of biodiversity. Invasive exotics do not fill the same ecological niche as the native plants they displace, thus those species of both plant and animal that rely on the native plants do not gain the same benefit from the invasive exotics and often must relocate as a result. The number of plant species that exist in Florida is estimated at approximately 4,000; of those, 1,000 are considered exotic and over 100 are considered invasive.

Several of the invasive exotics that have become problematic to the Preserve were initially brought in for their ornamental value. These include earpod and Chinaberry trees. Over time, and without human control, these trees began to spread and infringe upon other native species. Intense removal of these trees has been applied on the Preserve. While seedlings still sprout up (and are subsequently removed when spotted), the overall population of earpod and Chinaberry trees has largely been eradicated on the Preserve.

Naturalized exotics refer to species with an ability to survive outside of their native range without human cultivation. They differ from invasive exotics in that they do not typically interfere with the ability of neighboring species to thrive.

Naturalized also refers to those plants that have become a part of the native landscape. Turk’s cap, which is historically present on the Preserve, is considered naturalized in some parts of Florida.

Sometimes native species can exhibit invasive behavior. Often, a natural or human-induced disturbance—one that drastically changes the structure of the natural environment such as a hurricane or construction activity—can cause a plant to become aggressive in its growth. Cattail, which is found in the littoral zones of all three of the Genius Preserve lakes, is widely considered a native invasive due to its tendency to out-compete other species and establish itself as a monoculture under certain circumstances. Cattail can be managed, however, and it has not yet become problematic on the Preserve lakeshores.

Exotic Flora List

rosary pea (Abrus precatorius) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhiza)           
shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet)           
spiny amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus)           
scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)           
asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
starfruit (Averrhoa carambola)           
crested phillipine violet (Barleria cristata)           
orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis)           
paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
angel's trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens)
weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis)           
camellia (Camellia japonica)* 
canna (Canna indica)           
nightflowering jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum)           
Mexican tea (Chenopodium ambrosiodes)           
camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
citrus (Citrus sp.)           
bleeding heart vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae (or C. spp.))           
wild taro (Colocasia esculenta) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
dayflower (Commelina diffusa)           
goldenmane tickseed (Coreopsis basalis)           
redflower ragleaf (Crassocephalum crepidioides)
Colombian waxweed (Cuphea carthagenensis (Cuphea hyssopifola))           
marsh parsley (Cyclospermum leptophyllum)           
air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
tropical chickweed (Drymeria chordata)           
jungle rice (Echinochloa colona)           
water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
Florida tasselflower (Emilia fosbergii)           
earpod tree (Enterolobium contortisiliquum)           
Japanese plum (loquat) (Eryobotrya japonica)           
Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
earthsmoke (Fumaria officinalis L.)           
Pennsylvania cudweed (Gamochaeta pensylvanica)           
gardenia (Gardenia augusta)           
silk oak (Grevillea robusta)
white gingerlily (Hedychium coronarium)heliconia (Heliconia sp.)           
hibiscus (Hibiscus sp.)           
cypressvine (Ipomoea quamoclit)
jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)
star jasmine (Jasminum multiflorum)
Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis)           
Peruvian primrosewillow (Ludwigia peruviana) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
cat's claw vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
wild bushbean (Macroptilium lathyroides)
turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus)            
mango (Mangifera indicia)
melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
rose natalgrass (Melinis repens)           
alamo vine (Merremia dissecta)           
four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa)           
wild balsam apple (Momordica charantia)
latexplant (Morrenia odorata)           
banana tree (Musa acuminata)           
tuberous sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
firespike (Odontonema strictum)           
pink woodsorrel (Oxalis debilis)           
skunk vine (Paederia foetida) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
guinea grass (Panicum maximum) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
torpedo grass (Panicum repens) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
pentas (star flower) (Pentas lanceolata)           
petunia (Petunia x hybrida)           
Mascarene Island leafflower (Phyllanthus tenellus)           
yew pine (Podocarpus macrophyllus)           
flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta)           
Formosa azalea (Rhodendron simsii)
Mexican clover (Richardia brasiliensis)           
castorbean (Ricinus communis) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata)           
rose (Rosa sp.)
blechum (Ruellia blechum)           
weeping willow (Salix babylonica)
bowstring hemp (Sansevieria hyacinthoides) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
Mexican flame vine (Senecio confusus) (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides)           
climbing nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
Brazilian nightshade (Solanum seaforthianum)            
tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper)           
common sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus)           
Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense)           
creeping oxeye (Sphagneticola trilobata) (formerly Wedelia trilobata) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
common chickweed (Stellaria meia)
bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)           
queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)           
arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)
tabebuia (Tabebuia heterophylla)           
caesarweed (Urena lobata) (FLEPPC Cat. II Invasive)
cockleburr (Xanthium strumarium)           
Oriental false hawksbeard (Youngia japonica)           
cardboard palm (Zamia furfuracea)           
pinecone ginger (Zingiber ottensii)
lantana (Lantana camara) (FLEPPC Cat. I Invasive)


Additional Resources on Exotic Plants of Florida

Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC)
Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida, IFAS
Florida Invasive Species Partnership 
Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants, University of South Florida
Florida Natural Areas Inventory 
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 


*Click here to download a PDF of the Genius Preserve Comprehensive Species Inventory, a full list of all species identified on the Genius Preserve including exotic/invasive species as well as those utilized in restoration and other planting projects.