I doubt many people would disagree with the assertion that Florida is a beautiful state. It is lush and colorful, boasting many beautiful waterways and diverse plant and animal life. However, some of that diverse life is not native to the state, and though they may contribute to the beauty of the state, they also have a negative impact on Florida. One such plant that has both beauty and beastly elements as an invasive species is the Albizia julibrissin Durazz – better known as the mimosa tree.
In order to understand the specific effects of the mimosa tree, it is important to have a better understanding of what an invasive plant species at large is. After all, it is hard to imagine a lovely plant being a problem! However, the fact remains that invasive plant species do, in fact, represent serious problems. In a film produced by the USDA Forest Service (2014) entitled “Plants Out of Place,” it is revealed that invasive plant species present many problems. These problems include “crowding out” native plants and dominating the resources available to the native plants (USDA Forest Service, 2014). Invasive plant species also have the potential to harbor pests which threaten both the invasive species and native species; pests may include insects as well as diseases (USDA Forest Service, 2014).
The invasive species’ use of resources and ability to carry pests make them significant threats to the native (and sometimes delicate) ecosystems of Florida. And any threat to the state’s natural ecosystems also represents a threat to its economy (USDA Forest Service, 2014). Given the role of agriculture in Florida’s economy, any invasive species which has the potential to harbor insects and diseases which could threaten critical crops, like citrus trees, can do more than just destroy crops. They threaten and can destroy the livelihoods of many people and the stability of business across the state.
Returning to the focused species of this discussion, the mimosa tree was introduced as an ornamental plant to the United States in 1745 and originates in Asia (Florida Invasive Species Partnership [FISP], 2015). It thrives in several areas of the southern U.S. including Florida (Chang, Gonzales, Pardini, & Hamrick, 2011). It occurs throughout Florida (FISP, 2015). Its preferred habitat is “any type of disturbed habitat,” including “old fields, stream banks, and roadsides” (FISP, 2015). Because it has such a widespread influence in the state, it is given the rank of 1 by the FISP in terms of its impact (FISP, 2014).
The negative impact of the mimosa tree is primarily ecological rather than economical (FISP, 2015). It is widely considered an agricultural weed, and its preference for waterways makes it a particular nuisance (FISP, 2015). The mimosa can attract and harbor the bruchid beetle which preys on the seeds and fruits of trees which also makes those trees more vulnerable to certain kinds of fungus and disease (Chang et al., 2011). Finally, it is “difficult to remove due to the long lived seeds and its ability to re-sprout vigorously” (FISP, 2015), making it particularly problematic.
In terms of management and control, state and national entities – including the University of North Florida (UNF) and the USDA Forest Service – are taking several steps. Within the state, organizations like UNF have instituted management programs which involve the removal of many trees including mimosa and recommended burning of select areas (Lemmons, Hubbuch, & Rossi, 2014). At the national level, removal is recommended; regular mowing of roadsides has shown effective management of seedlings (Meyer, 2010). So, though the mimosa is beautiful, it is also beastly and must be managed.
- Chang, S. M., Gonzales, E., Pardini, E., & Hamrick, J. L. (2011). Encounters of old foes on a
new battle ground for an invasive tree, Albizia julibrissin Durazz (Fabaceae). Biological Invasions, 13(4), 1043-1053.
- Florida Invasive Species Partnership. (2015). Mimosa. EDDSMapS. Retrieved from
- Florida Invasive Species Partnership. (2014). Plants. EDDSMapS. Retrieved from
- Meyer, R. (2010). Albizia julibrissin. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky
Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Retrieved from http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/
- USDA Forest Service, Southern Region. (2014). Plants out of place . Invasive.org:
Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. Retrieved from http://www.invasive.org/video/plants.html