Project underway to tackle Virginia Key's invasive species

Australian Pines take over Virginia Key

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter , Jennifer Jacobs - Producer

VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. - Among the lush, tropical landscape of Virginia Key, a problem is growing from the ground up. Australian Pines are taking over the key.

"In the case of pines, they relieve a lot of needles and that makes the soil very acidic so nothing else can move in," said Fernando Bretos from the Museum of Science.

Australian Pines are an invasive species with no natural predators. Put another way, nothing stops them from growing and thriving. As a result, they box out native plants and all the animals that depend on them for nutrients.

Now, with the help of a Wells Fargo grant, the Miami Museum of Science is equipped to tackle the invasion.

The restoration project spans 17 acres. Together with volunteers, staff members are working to remove the pines and restore the area's sand dunes. They are also planing red mangrove seedlings, which are natural to the area.

"It will be beneficial as well for the sea turtles because they'll have more beach to next on and they'll have a flatter beach."

The next official volunteer day will be held on May 25 between 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Virgina Key. To RSVP, email

"Hopefully in 100 years, they'll come back here and the mangrove swamp will be 20 or 30 feet tall," said Mike Rasco, a local volunteer.

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