2023 Central District All Faculty Symposium – Natural Resources
K. Stump, UF/IFAS Extension, Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL
D. Sussmann, Florida Forest Service, Orlando District, FL
Situation: Invasive plants are non-native plants that cause damage to the environment, economy and/or human health. Invasive plant control is costly and complicated, requiring multi-agency management efforts and significant funding. Public awareness and education can encourage behaviors to help limit the spread of invasives. The annual National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) promotes group volunteer workdays to remove invasive plants and spread awareness. Objectives: 100% of workday participants will increase knowledge about invasive plants and cumulatively remove at least 100 pounds of plant material. Methods: In 2022 and 2023, the Osceola Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area and UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County hosted two Weed Wrangle workdays at a local nature park for NISAW. The workdays began with education about the target invasive plant, air potato. Volunteers were taught how to identify and effectively remove the plant. Then volunteers removed and bagged plant material. Results/Outcomes: Twenty-one volunteers participated in the two Weed Wrangles. Each participant increased their knowledge about air potato as measured by a post event survey. Altogether, the groups removed over 800 pounds of air potato. The bulbils were collected and sent to the state Division of Plant Industry to provide a food source for laboratory studies of air potato biological control. Conclusion/Impacts: Not only did the volunteer days educate participants about invasive plants, but a significant amount of plant material was removed, protecting the park from future invasive spread. The workday efforts are directly benefitting biological control development, which will further reduce environmental damage. Furthermore, limiting the spread of air potato can reduce the funding and manpower required by local agencies for invasive plant control.