Removal of invasive tree species in Cape Coral could prove to be costly

Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

Invasive trees in Southwest Florida are being removed, but at what price? It is costly, but experts say the removal of these trees is important.

Mike McGowan says the Brazilian peppertree growing in the empty lot next-door to his home used to be tiny. But in the last 20 years, it has grown significantly. “It’s growing up against my fence; it’s going up against my neighbor’s fence,” McGowan said.

Per U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “Brazilian pepper branches form a dense thicket with bright green leaves and vibrant red berries that are frequently used for accent landscaping and Christmas decorations. While Brazilian pepper is beautiful, it has become one of the most aggressive invasive exotic plant species in the state of Florida.” Credit: Dan Clark via U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

It’s becoming more difficult to manage as well. So, McGowan turned to the City of Cape Coral and asked for the tree to be removed.

“It’s just become a nuisance because if you look you can see the dirty shrubs in there from some of the neighbors, all shrubs,” said McGowan.

He isn’t the only neighbor complaining about these trees either. Cape Coral has received hundreds of complaints about the trees growing on vacant lots in the past couple of years.

Cape Coral City Council now plans to discuss paying a company $800,000 to remove the trees. The area of focus will mainly be north of Pine Island Road in places near developed properties like McGowan’s. “If you don’t try and control i, like you see I try to mow it back, it’ll just come right into your yard,” he said.

David Outerbridge with the University of Florida’s Food and Agricultural Sciences program described the Brazilian peppertree as one of the most widespread invasive plants in the state. “And there’s no natural predators, so they’ve been allowed to thrive in our environment,” said Outerbridge.

McGowan says the city initially told him it could be at least a year before the trees are removed. He hopes if the city council takes action that the tree will be gone sooner rather than later.

The city told WINK News that any Cape Coral homeowner with Brazilian pepper invading their property should call the 311 hotline.

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