Alachua County is known for the University of Florida, cultural diversity, a great local music scene… and air potatoes? Unfortunately, it’s true: we’re just one of the counties in Florida affected by this heavily invasive species of plant that can really get in the way of our beautiful, native breeds. So, like any good citizens of nature’s habitat, we have sought for ways to correct this intruding wrong, and one of those ways is coming up very soon.
That’s right! It’s time again for the Annual Air Potato Roundup!
While this might sound silly to some, this event that takes place at the end of January is a huge deal. With live music, food, and raffles, people of all walks of life come out to help Mother Nature by picking up the air tubers and discarding them, preventing them from spreading elsewhere. While registration for this year’s event is over (the event is always a huge success!), we thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the air potato, as well as a couple other invasive plants, so that we know exactly what in our area is there, that shouldn’t be!
Air Potato- Dioscorea bulbifera
The air potato is a vine that multiplies through the falling and distribution of aerial tubers (thus, the name “air potato”). While this is part of the yam family, it is poisonous and should not be eaten. The plan can grow extremely fast, which often pushes out native plants and takes over full patches of land. Land that has been disrupted, such as from fires or construction, is often the most susceptible to being hit by the plant.
Water Hyacinth- Eichhornia crassipes
This water based plant came from Brazil, and was said to be brought to the U.S. during an exposition in 1884 in New Orleans. Since its introduction, it has covered over 100,000 acres of waterways in Florida, and is extremely damaging to native habitats. It covers waterways like a mat, clogs the waterways, makes it very difficult to do anything in the water (in terms of activities like sports), and forces out other life by limiting the amount of oxygen in the water.
Brazilian Pepper-tree- Schinus terebinthifolius
The pepper tree is an incredibly aggressive and widespread plant in Florida. It originally was brought over as an ornamental plant (it’s often used in Christmas decorations because of the red and green colorations), but has since infested over 700,000 acres of Florida lands. Its dense canopy shades out all other plants and strongly limits their reproductive and growth abilities.
If you want to find out more about how to get rid of these plants, what plants to use instead, or even how you can help with the Air Potato Roundup in your own yard, visit the Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative in Parks and see how you can stop these plants from pestering our native breeds!