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Brazilian Pepper

What’s wrong with Brazilian Pepper? Nothing – if it is growing where it is native in South America. As with so many exotics, the problems come when a species is introduced to an area where it is NOT native. It then may have the upper hand – no natural controls. The problem is that we – as a species – have a fascination with novelty – something new, something different, and we have a propensity to move species around – to flaunt or sometimes to financially benefit from the novelty of a species. So it was with Brazilian Pepper. During the Elizabethan era of the 1800s, elaborate Christmas holiday decorations came into vogue – and nearly eradicated our native American Holly. In search for an alternative, Brazilian Pepper was introduced to Florida and marketed under various trade names such as “Florida Holly”. The first mistake was introducing it. The second mistake was to make people think it was a holly, the third mistake was not eradicating it as soon as the first two mistakes were recognized. Now it’s too late. Brazilian Pepper is well entrenched in south Florida ecosystems. It has downsides that were not anticipated – highly competitive with native species, and positive sides that have often been ignored – a source of winter food and shelter for native wintering and resident birds and other wildlife.