Air Potato Beetles Hard At Work

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. 

Spanish Needles

Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) get a bad rap, and many of us here at the Preserve have mixed feelings about them.  They are a native Florida wildflower that provides a nectar source for bees, but they grow prolifically to the point of becoming a nuisance. 

Spanish Needles are actually an important native Florida wildflower that support our pollinators and other native wildlife.  Adult Gulf Fritillary butterflies enjoy the nectar, as do honeybees. It is also a host plant for the Dainty Sulphur caterpillar.

This plant can get a bit “weedy” and often needs management to keep from crowding out other plants, but there is no doubt it brings in a lot of life! It blooms throughout the year, especially in summer and fall. You will see Spanish Needles along the edge of our Pioneer Garden, around the Turtle Pen and along the Yellow & Blue Trails.

Have questions about restoration or native plants that are best for your yard?  Email us.

Buy Local

Buy local food whenever possible (and organic, too).  

Buying local reduces the amount of miles that your food travels - from the farm where it was grown, to the store or market where you buy it.  Why is that important?  

Because some of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases, are the emissions from the vehicles used to transport our food.  So the closer you are to your food source, the fewer emissions there are to get the food to your table.