According to the Nature Conservancy, the annual cost of managing Florida’s invasive plants is estimated at $100 million. Invasive plants have become a significant problem for many of the public lands in Nassau County, a popular tourist destination. This issue has become particularly problematic in the popular Egan’s Creek recreational area, Seaside Beach, and North Beach. Troublesome species such as Chinese tallow, chinaberry tree, skunkvine, Alamo vine, asparagus fern, and silverthorn were overrunning certain areas, crowding out native plants, reducing natural food and habitat for wildlife such as butterflies, bees, and gopher tortoises, and preventing visitors from enjoying forests, waterways, and other sites. Fernandina Beach contacted UF/IFAS Extension Nassau County Director Rebecca Jordi to request assistance in identifying the aggressive plants so funding could be obtained for management efforts. Master Gardener volunteers helped survey over 300 acres of affected areas. Jordi provided a formal report that lists invasive and native plants by species and notes the degree of infestation at various sites.
The removal program has been in effect for roughly six years and has dramatically reduced the presence of target species. North Beach, a site with an area of approximately 2.3 acres, was once covered in asparagus fern and silverthorn. The most recent survey showed only four patches of asparagus fern and no silverthorn. Alamo vine from Seaside Beach once filled fifty-six 55-gallon containers. Currently, there are no signs of the plant. Native plants such as sabal palm, beach croton, and Florida golden aster have started to return to the beaches. Returning species at Egan’s Creek include American groundnut, hemp vine and camphorweed.
Skunkvine growing over native shrubs. UF/IFAS File Photo