Habitat Specialists, Inc.


Another landscape tree native to Australia has not only escaped into the wild, but is invasive and becoming reproductive in Florida’s natural areas. This tree is carrotwood (Cupaniopsis anacardioides). It was first identified as a potentially invasive tree in 1989, about ten years after it became popular as a landscape tree. Since then, seedlings to medium-sized trees have established themselves outside of cultivation in disturbed sites and undisturbed natural areas. Carrotwood is found in habitats invaded by melaleuca and Australian pine, and has been compared to Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius). Below are highlights of recent research that describes the extent to which carrotwood has invaded Florida (Lockhart, et al., 1996).

Of greatest concern is the impact of carrotwood in mangrove communities. Mangroves are not highly competitive; carrotwood is. Many Florida industries depend on the animals that rely on the unique mangrove community. Carrotwood is already found in many counties where mangroves grow (compare Figures 1 and 2 on the back). A mangrove canopy opened by trimming or storms appears to be more prone to invasion. In addition, as urban sprawl continues and our native habitats diminish, all potentially negative impacts need to be examined and addressed.

We advise planting alternatives like pigeon plum, dahoon holly, inkwood, magnolias, laurel cherry, Jamaican dogwood, gumbo limbo, paradise tree, or mahogany. Trim fruiting branches to reduce the spread of carrotwood seed by birds. Chemical treatment before tree removal reduces root sprouts. Education for university and local horticulture staff, legislators, developers, nurserymen, homeowners, groundskeepers, etc., are essential now to reduce costly removal efforts in the near future.

Map 1
Figure 1 Distribution of Carrotwood in Florida

Map 2
Figure 2 Distribution of Mangrove Species in Florida

What can be done to avoid further impacts to natural resources, to dependent industries and their related costs?

Much is still unknown about carrotwood - its germination rate, its elevation limits, its success rate in the wild, its effects and rate of impact and displacement in native habitats. While understanding the nature of the beast can help us to deal with it, it is important not to wait for these answers to act upon the problem. We have learned from previous invasive exotic plants that playing catch-up is a costly game. It is time to take off the blinders and be pro-active.

Lockhart, C., D. Austin, W. Jones, L. Downey. 1996. The Invasion of Carrotwood (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) in Natural Areas (in review). For a copy of the full report, contact Greg Jubinsky at or Chris Lockhart at

Last Updated: 09 September, 2010

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