Aggressive Doesn't Equal Invasive
November 12, 2015
"That plant is invasive," a gardener friend recently said to me. I asked her to be more specific, because I knew the plant she was referring to was a Florida native.
"It just takes over everything!"
She was right about the plant growing aggressively, but wrong in her use of the word "invasive." The plant was sunshine mimosa or Mimosa strigillosa, a native Florida groundcover. It's a great groundcover for full sun in a spot where's there plenty of room for the plant to grow. Is it aggressive? Yes. Will it grow over your other plants? Yes. Is it an invasive exotic plant?
The definition that UF/IFAS uses for exotic invasive is, "a non-native species that forms a self-sustaining and expanding population in a natural plant community with which it had not previously been associated." Since sunshine mimosa is a native, it would not be considered an invasive exotic.
As Master Gardeners and Florida-Friendly gardeners, we do need to be concerned with invasive plants. We have to ask ourselves if the pretty shrub, vine, tree, or groundcover we are planting today is going to be tomorrow's coral ardesia, wisteria, Chinese tallow, or skunk vine. It is estimated that the cost of managing invasive plants on Florida public lands is millions of dollars each year. If you've ever had to remove invasive plants from your own property you know that there is a high cost involved.
Stay informed about invasive plants by visiting the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas website at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. This site has wonderful pictures and a great search feature, it will help you to learn the difference between invasive exotics and just plain aggressive plants.
-- Wendy Wilber