Has the area that
you are investigating been changed by people over the years? Have
people damaged or interfered with the plants that are growing there?
Native plants are those that have been growing here since before people
arrived in South Florida. Exotic plants are those that people brought
here from other countries and then planted in place of the natives.
Unfortunately, exotic plants grow faster than native ones. Maybe
they can survive fires better, or perhaps insect pests don't bother them.
Whatever the reason, exotic plants can take over a community from the native
plants. Native plants get pushed out and the the community is changed
How much damage has been done to the biotic community that you are investigating? Have exotics taken over from the natives, or have the natives survived?
Look for the following examples of exotic plants, and read how they are harmful to our native plants:
Australian Pine: It is from Australia, but it's not a real pine tree. It just looks like one. It's needle-like leaves fall on the ground and release a chemical that prevents other plants from growing. This is a pretty good way to eliminate competition.
Brazilian Pepper: It's also called Florida Holly. It looks like a great big shrub, not a tree. This is because it doesn't have one big trunk like other trees. Instead, it grows many thin trunks branching from its base. It pushes other plants out of the way and prevents them from getting any sunlight.
This tree's bark peels off like paper. This tree takes over wherever
there is abundant water. The problem is that it absorbs tremendous
amounts of this precious water. It then turns the wet area into a
dry area. The trees also grow so close together, no other plants
can live there.