The air potato is the #1 Invasive plant species in Florida.
Just released a few months ago and the Asian air potato beetles are already making a difference here at the Preserve! A native to tropical Asia, air potato, Dioscera bulbifera, was first introduced to Florida in 1905. It is listed as one of Florida’s most invasive species since 1993 due to its ability to disrupt natural processes such as fire and water flow.
Air potato is noticeable by its alternately arranged heart shaped leaves on the stem. These plants are very toxic and can grow extremely quickly, roughly 8 inches per day. You can see the air potato vine climbing to the tops of the trees and taking over native plants.
There are many ways to eliminate this invasive species: prevention, mechanical, biological and chemical. Here at the nature preserve, we like to be as biologically friendly as possible which is why we used the help of a leaf eating beetle from Asia, air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni. The air potato leaf beetle will only consume leaf tissue and occasionally feed on bulbils, thereby negatively affecting plant growth and reproduction of the air potato. They are still here and helping prevent the spread of this invasive species. Thanks little guys, you play an important role in controlling Florida's invasives!
The next time you visit, be sure to take a stroll down the Blue Trail and you will see some of their handy work.