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Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas

Approximately 85 percent of all nonnative plant species in the United States enter through Florida, causing threatened and endangered species declines and millions of dollars in management costs. The invasive plants of concern are those that spread and thrive outside its native community, wreaking havoc when they are introduced to new habitats.

In 1999, the UF/IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group accepted the responsibility of helping combat these invasive species by creating the “Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas” with the goal of providing consistent recommendations about the invasion risks of non-native plants.

The assessment has evolved into a three-part, literature-based tool: The Status Assessment determines if plants already inhabited in Florida are invasive, the Predictive Tool helps decrease invasions by presenting a recommendation whether the plant should or should not be introduced, and the Infraspecific Taxon Protocol is used internally to evaluate the risks of UF/IFAS plant varieties in development.

More than 850 plant species have been evaluated with these tools, and the results are freely accessible at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. UF/IFAS faculty, Master Gardeners, government agencies and the general public can search the database by species name, zone, conclusion type, origin, or growth habit to gain access to species’ conclusions, more information and photos.

Approximately 73 percent of the species evaluated are categorized as “ok to recommend,” 15.6 percent as “invasive, not recommended,” 6.8 percent as “caution/evaluate,” and only 4.8 percent as “prohibited.” All UF/IFAS publications that mention non-native species must consult and cite these conclusions.