The Australian pine compromise

When articles play on emotions, facts are seldom recognized.

Casuarina species

In a recent editorial,  “Must all Australian pines be destroyed?” , the author brings to light one womans fight to save the invasive trees.  One reason is the shade they give, the other… John Ringling planted some in 1920.  He was so fond of them, he called them his “pets”.

My response: 

Shade is important.  But if the source of the shade is destroying native habitats, the compromise should be on our part.  As responsible stewards of our land, we should be willing to suffer a little discomfort if it means restoring our environment.

Yes, there is a cost to replace the trees but to imply keeping the trees costs nothing falls short of the truth.

The Facts:

As early as 1952 cities were crafting ordinances against the species.   An excerpt from our county website: Certain species are deemed so aggressive as to have been banned from sale, propagation or planting; see Sarasota County Ordinances, Article XIX, §54-621, which bans and encourages the removal of Melaleuca, Australian Pine, Brazilian Pepper, Carrotwood and Chinese Tallow. In addition, invasive non-natives rob our natural wildlife of refuge, forage, breeding and nesting grounds. 

¹The Austrailian Pine was introduced to Florida in the late 1800’s and was naturalized in the early 1900’s.   Because of its fast growth rate, dense shade and heavy litter, it has crowded out native vegetation.  It has interfered with the nesting of endangered sea turtles and the American crocodile.  In coastal areas the roots are shallow so the tree is not stable and topples in high winds.  They are sensitive to fire and they produce allelopathic compounds that inhibit the growth of other vegetation.

The cost of keeping the trees is nothing???

²Once on the loose, they can wreak havoc on ecosystems because the herbivores, parasites, pathogens or predators that kill or eat them in their native habitats are not present in American landscapes and wild areas.  Without these limiting factors to keep invasive exotics under control, they out-compete native species for such limited resources as sunlight, water, nutrients, soil and space.  In time, they can form dense, single-species stands that dominate and displace existing native vegetation, causing great loss of biodiversity that alters the original natural ecosystem.

  • ³The cost to control invasive species and the damage they inflict on property and natural resources in the US is estimated at $137 billion annually
  • Florida has spent over $300 million to control a single invasive species, the citrus canker
  • In fiscal year 1999-2000, nine Florida agencies spent $90.8 million on prevention, monitoring, control, and restoration efforts.
  • The cost of invasive plants, animals and diseases in losses to Florida’s agriculture is estimated at $179 million.

¹Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council

² How to be aware of invasive exotics as you plan your garden

³Invasive species in Florida

“The Oaks’ birds get a show of support”

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