Florida: Strong and determined battler against Invasive Brazilian Pepper Trees

“I call it my crusade,” Sheehan said. “I’m on a crusade to eradicate
Brazilian peppers.” Sheehan is under no illusion that he will uproot
every one of the plants, which cover more than 700,000 acres of
Central and South Florida. But, with the help of an 80-man “Lazy Daze”
crew of fellow Tangerine Woods homeowners in Englewood, Sheehan has
cleared one acre of the five infested acres in his gated community. It
is not easy work.

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The hardy Brazilian pepper must be hacked to the root before it can be
cut down and destroyed by herbicide. “To just cut ’em down and not
kill them is just stupid,” Sheehan said. “They’ll just grow back.”
Sheehan’s crusade has earned notice and financial backing from the
Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, which has given him three
micro-grants, totaling $870, to buy equipment and pesticide to combat
the nuisance trees.

Map of Pepper Tree invasion from a great reference page called: http://threatsummary.forestthreats.org

The Brazilian pepper tree throttles nearby plant
life with its huge tangle of unruly roots, shading surrounding
indigenous plants. Also known as Florida holly or the Christmasberry
tree, the Brazilian pepper belongs in the same plant family as poison
oak, poison ivy and poison sumac. Its sap can irritate the skin, and
burning the wood releases airborne toxins. The multi-trunked Brazilian
pepper can grow to a height of 40 feet.

The female plants flower with
thousands of red berries, which are eaten and dispersed by birds,
raccoons, opossums and other wildlife. Brazilian pepper trees grow
throughout the state. Possession of a Brazilian pepper with intent to
sell or plant is illegal in Florida. There is no organized state,
county or local plan to eliminate Brazilian peppers, though they are
controlled at many parks and public lands. But for Sheehan, looking at
his backyard being slowly suffocated was all he needed to start his
crusade, which has attracted enthusiastic backing from like-minded
neighbors who now spend at least two hours every week hewing, hacking
and uprooting the trees. Sheehan said he has two rules for the Lazy
Daze crew. “You can’t be allergic to the Brazilian pepper,” he said.
“And you can’t be allergic to hard work.” Maran Brainard Hilgendorf,
communications manager for the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary
Program, said Sheehan is helping meet the goal of protecting the
environment from Venice to Bonita Springs and Winter Haven, a 4,700
square-mile area. Sheehan said he will use money from his third grant
to buy Garlon 4, a pricey but effective herbicide.

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Comments (1)

C. BruceMarch 2nd, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Hello there

I wish to say to you – “Best of luck!”
I live in Bermuda where the locals call it “Mexican Pepper.”
I have no idea how this plant came to have its name changed.
However; I will tell you that, there is a plus+ side, to this invasion of sorts.
Bees LOVE this plant!

If you like honey – then start making bee hives as fast as you can!
In my experience – although invasive (and I find the sapp more bothersome than poison ivy)-; plant life will show dramatic improvement in the near future.
Pruning almost constantly in the summer months is required and (if you are like me:-) please wash off the sapp after about 3 hours or so!

Thank you
C. Bruce

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