Air Potato Roundup

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Air Potato Roundup
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
This photo was taken while I was volunteering in Gainesville's 9th Annual Great Air Potato Roundup on January 26. We were helping to clean up Wilmot Gardens on the University of Florida campus.

The big brown thing in front of me is the tuber of Dioscorea alata, or "winged yam." It probably weighed close to thirty pounds!

The vine is classified as an exotic invasive species, meaning that it spreads into natural areas and displaces native species. These vines can grow 30 feet or more in length -- you see the remains of the vine coming off the top of the tuber in the photo. As the vines grow, they produce air potatoes (also called "bulbils") that later fall off and can sprout new vines.

The other type of invasive air potato that's common in this area is Dioscorea bulbifera. You can see a few of the light-colored, round bulbils on the white plastic bag to my left.

The photo below shows what happens if Dioscorea bulbifera is left unchecked. Sure, it provides a lush tropical look, but trust me, you don't want this vine in your yard if you live here in Florida. It can grow to 60 feet in length, climbing up trees and shrubs or anything in its path, and can be just as all-consuming as kudzu.

Originally uploaded by onedropmonkey

Here's one final picture from the air potato roundup, courtesy of Wendy Wilber. That's a bin of tubers I'm holding.

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