Holiday Ranch
Breeder of South Poll Grass Cattle

Tropical Soda Apple

Tropical Soda Apple fruit

 

No, it’s not a refreshing fruit or ice-cold beverage, although it does have fruit; and those fruit look like itty-bitty watermelons. 

Tropical Soda Apple is the plant from hell!  In addition to the pretty fruit, the plant has thorns on all the stems and leaves, both on top and bottom of the leaves.  It is hard to realize how vicious this plant really is. 

When we purchased Holiday Ranch, we quickly learned that the late owner, Coy Dyson, had Beefmaster cattle, many from South Florida.  We also learned that Coy rented some of the paddocks to some ranchers  from South Florida who would bring their cattle to our location in North Florida and later ship those cattle out west.  Our ranch was just a stopping point to rest, feed and water the cattle. 

Seed-filled fruit

 

Apparently these South Florida cattle had been eating the lovely fruit from the Tropical Soda Apple plants and planting the seeds via their manure into our pastures.  Then the deer and birds have continued to spread it by eating the seed-filled fruit. 

Tropical Soda Apple was discovered in Glades County, Florida (south Florida) in 1988 and by 2002 a million acres had been infested with it.  It was placed on the Florida Noxious Weed List in 1994 and the Federal List in 1995. 

Several years back, we received a cost-share from the government to rid our property of this demon-weed.  Since then, we have been scouting our fields and hand-pulling this plant.  It seems like a winless battle. 

Releasing Gratiana boliviana

 

We were contacted by our County Extension Agent over the weekend to advise he had something for us.  We were receiving a supply of “Gratiana boliviana”; leaf-eating beetles native to South America from the University of Florida.  Finally!  Biological control for Tropical Soda Apple!  hallelujah! 

We scouted our fields and put a few beetles on each of the plants we found and are so hopeful these little green bugs will be the death of Tropical Soda Apple in our little world – I just hope they don’t have an appetite for vegetable plants in my garden!

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