Air potato vine, like the villainous Queen of Hearts, strangles everything in its wake in smothering hearts. It is this week’s invasive halloweed.
First introduced to the Americas in 1905, air potato quickly became considered one of Florida’s worst invasive plants. It can grow up to 8 inches a day! Air potato can be easily found across the state, killing native vegetation, impeding the flow of water, and even causing beneficial prescribed burns to dangerously climb up into the canopies of trees.
Landowners may inadvertently allow air potato to grow on their property not realizing that its lovely heart-shaped leaves are insidiously choking out native plants and wildlife. As it grows, it produces potato-like bulbils that fall off the vines and start new populations. Under the ground, it also grows large tubers that make it very hard to dig up. Because of the difficulty manually eradicating this vine, herbicides are generally recommended. Always follow label instructions and refer to the Air Potato website or your local UF/IFAS Extension Service for more information. Picking up and disposing of any “potatoes” is also an excellent way to reduce their spread.
Thankfully, we have a little critter to help us! Air potato beetles were thoroughly tested by the Florida Department of Agriculture and have been reared and released for the last 10 years. Just about every air potato leaf I come across has the characteristic lacing effect courtesy of eating by our friend, the air potato beetle. Nearly one million beetles have been released and are now established, continuing their work to naturally help us fight back this beastly vine.
This blog is part of the Halloweeding series that highlights a spooky, invasive plant each week of October.