SFWMD battles melaleuca around Lake Okeechobee

The South Florida Water Management District continues to battle invasive melaleuca trees around Lake Okeechobee, according to the report given by Alex Onisko at the July 28 Lake Okeechobee Aquatic Plant Management Interagency Task Force meeting.

Over the past two years, SFWMD has treated melaleuca trees with teams on foot and by swamp buggy.

In the area between Pelican Bay and Ritta islands, they found older,mature trees set back in the marsh. Crews treated each tree individually. They also found a lot of saplings.

Indian Prairie also has a lot of saplings. Crews were able to access that area by buggy, Onisko explained.

Melalueca trees getting more difficult to find on Lake Okeechobee, she said. South of the lake there are some large, mature trees in interior marsh surrounded by stands of willows.

She said they considering an application targeting individual trees by helicopter.

“It’s probably safer than sending applicators to try to access these areas by foot,” she said.

This would be done in spring during periods of low lake level so applications will not be over standing water.

Maintenance of smaller trees will still be by buggy or by boat.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, melaleuca trees have extensively invaded South Florida, displacing native vegetation in wetland and upland environments. Native to Australia and Malaysia, melaleuca was introduced into Florida in 1906 as a potential commercial timber and later extensively sold as a landscape ornamental tree and windbreak.

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