Push to keep invasive plant off Volusia beaches

Volusia County officials have posted signs at Smyrna Dunes park to let everyone know about efforts to get rid of the Brazilian Pepper plant.

It’s exotic and invasive. Experts say the plant is a threat to the habitat.

“Brazilian Pepper has a very tangled growth habit, very dense growth habit. It basically blocks out all the sunlight below it and kills all the native understory, underneath it,” explained Joe Nolin, with Volusia County’s Coastal Division.

The plants typically grow bright red berries. But without fruit on the three, they blend into the brush. The dead plants, however, stick out like sore thumbs.

“We usually go in and chemically treat the stump around the base of the tree, or shrub or plant, whatever size it is and it’ll die in place. And then we’ll come back a couple of months later and mechanically remove the plants and trees,” said Nolin.

He says the South American plant came to the U.S. more than 100 years ago. A lot of people used it for holiday decorations. The plants grow rapidly and spread.

Volusia County officials say out of 183 acres at Smyrna Dunes, the Brazilian Pepper is growing in 34.

“There’s a lot of endangered species that thrive out there. We want to maintain he habitat the best we can with native plants out there,” Nolin said.

On top of being bad for the environment, the pepper plant is an irritant to human skin and has a strong smell when it’s cut down.