(pictured Tegu Lizard Left, Azalea Right)
You may have heard the terms introduced and invasive species used in similar circumstance and may not necessarily know the difference between the two. This is understandable because the line is a little blurry between the two with the only real difference the end result of whether the species is impacting the environment in a negative or positive way.
An introduced species is a non native species that has one way or another been integrated into the native environment by human or other means. The key difference with introduced species are that they integrate into the native environment without negative effects to the surrounding ecosystem. Some examples of introduced species would be Bok Tower Garden’s Azaleas and Camellias that we have on the grounds. These have been adopted and are considered non threatening and have been a welcoming feature to many American gardens.
An invasive species on the other hand is an introduced organism that has become detrimental to the local environment. This is due to the fact that the species is either taking up resources used by native species, causing harm to local communities and people or directly attacking native species. These exotic species have been brought to Florida though the same means as the introduced species, however, they key difference is the impact they have. A common example an invasive species is the Tegu Lizard. The Tegu lizard is an invasive lizard from South America which was very popular as a pet, however are highly aggressive and most pet owners released them into the wild. Now thriving in many parts of Florida they are attacking native species and thriving in doing so.
At the end of the day the preservation of our native species in Florida should always be the primary concern of anyone buying or selling exotic species of plants or animals. It is apparent that even the smallest of changes such as buying a pet can have major implications in the local environment. Always be smart about pets!
Click here to view the FWC’s complete list of non native species in Florida: