Invasive Species - Melaleuca Tree

Essay by MelengkeHigh School, 12th gradeA, July 2005

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Introducing a nonnative species into an environment can cause some unexpected problems to the habitat and to native species. Although some introduced species are beneficial, such as food crops, game animals and pets, others can have a negative effect on the environment. Fifteen percent of species introduced have become invaders causing devastation to farms, health hazards for humans, invasion of natural areas, and the replacement of native species. If a plant or animal is introduced to a new area with similar plants or animals it causes competition for food or space. One species can be eliminated because of this. An example of a nonnative species being introduced into the United States and causing unforseen problems is the Australian melaleuca tree being introduced to Florida.

The melaleuca tree is an ornamental plant that grows to be about eighty feet tall. The bark of the tree is spongy and it's leaves are up to five inches long.

The flowers of the melaleuca tree are white and small and the fruit that the tree produces are woody capsules with many seeds. This tree was introduced into Florida swamps in the 1880's because people wanted to dry up the "useless" swamps. They have since become a problem for the everglades because they invade moist open habitats forming dense and often impenetrable stands of trees. Native wildlife in these areas are threatened because the melaleuca trees crowd out beneficial native plants. The tree can spread very fast because it produces large amounts of seeds and most of the seeds that spread grow into large trees. Only fifty years after the tree was introduced into the United States it had already spread over hundreds of thousands of acres. By 1967, it was in Everglades National Park, and in 1993 it covered 488,000 acres in south...