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This is the time of year to spot the bright red berries and shiny green leaves of the dreaded Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius, Raddi). This attractive shrub/tree was brought to the US as an ornamental and was often called Florida Holly.
Unfortunately Brazilian Pepper (BP) grows fast, reaching a height and spread of 20 feet. The female plants, produce 1,000's of berries that readily sprout to form new plants.
There are no natural predators here. BP seeds are disbursed by birds, wind and water. Thus, BP spreads rapidly, smothering desirable native plants and creating thickets of only BP. This situation with only one plant type is called a mono culture. Be observant when you drive south. You'll see giant hedges and clusters of BP along the roadsides and marsh edges. BP has taken over more acreage in Florida than any other exotic invasive plant.
Make this your season to eradicate Brazilian Pepper. If you notice small plants in your yard, pull them up or dig them out. If you have berries, clip them, bag them and destroy them. DO NOT compost BP berries. Large plants may be safely killed by using a cut stump or basal bark application of a small amount of approved herbicide.
The Cedar Key Garden Club has been eradicating BP in Cedar Key for 12 years. The program runs on volunteers and has been supported by the Department of Environmental Protection, the Extension Service of the University of Florida.
Volunteers meet to Work on BP in Cedar Key each Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Welcome Center on 2nd Street in Cedar Key. Notify Mary Stone at 543-6007 if you'd like to schedule eradication of BP on your property, or for volunteer information. The Garden Club provides instruction, identification and equipment. Volunteers need to wear long pants, long sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes or boots. Gloves and safety glasses are provided.