For one month, I lived in Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve, a 729,000 acre swamp area that is vital to the sustenance of the Everglades.
While there, I created a series of photographs that were displayed as a solo exhibition at the park’s Visitor Center during its peak of visitation.
The exhibition drew attention to how beautiful and benign plants can have a dark side that gets unleashed if they are moved from their original environment to a new location. Native plants and animals fall prey after the imported visitor establishes itself and becomes dominant.
The Brazilian Pepper is an evergreen shrub that grows to 43 feet tall (13 meters) and is native to parts of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. When crushed, the leaves smell like pepper or turpentine.
Brought as an ornamental plant, Brazilian Pepper has rapidly spread within Big Cypress and throughout Florida. It shades out and displaces native vegetation and has already impacted some rare species.
The spread of non-native species is a global issue and is a problem with which Florida and the National Park Service has much experience.
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