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Pepper Busters unite

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During the winter holidays, our eyes are drawn to native plants that shimmer reds and greens of the season. Beauties like Florida holly, with its waxy deep green leaves and bright red berries;  yaupon holly, with its small waxy leaves and small red berries; and the more delicate Christmas berry with red and green as well as a tiny lavender flower, are all our friends.

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These native beauties are more decorative than the invasive brought in as an ornamental.

Those new to Florida mistake Brazilian pepper (Schinus), for a friendly plant because its colors are familiar. Birds don’t care – food is food – but these non-native plants are heavy drinkers of the water our native plants require. Schinus produces millions of seeds many times throughout the year making it tough to control its spreading. Birds unwittingly fertilize them in their guano after gorging on the berries. Schinus is the “most hated” non-native plant for Floridians because they can survive cutting, burning and even some chemical treatment.  

Staff and Friends of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge along with the Cedar Key Garden Club’s Pepper Busters are going all-out to rid the area of the hardy, but hated invasive.  Roger McDaniels, both a Refuge Friends Board member and President of the Cedar Key Garden Club, wrote the grant for invasives eradication.  Later, the Refuge purchased safety gear, application equipment, chemicals and tools for volunteers and staff. Refuge Fire Management Officer, Vic Doig created an invasive plants brochure to inform the visiting public and new residents. It can be seen posted in the Refuge bulletin board at the Cedar Key Marina.

McDaniels, has organized at least a dozen or more work groups to pepper-bust  the Refuge’s newly acquired Luken’s Tract and areas of Cedar Key.

No schinus shall go unnoticed, uncut or untreated. If you’re interested in becoming a Pepper-Buster, call the Refuge at 352/493-0238.