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Air Potato

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Air potato
Air potato, bulbils - Photo by Karen Brown; University of Florida
Scientific Name: 

Dioscorea bulbifera L. (ITIS)

Common Name: 

Air potato, Air potato vine, air yam, bitter yam

Native To: 

Asia and Africa (Overholt et al. 2003)

Date of U.S. Introduction: 

First observed in the U.S. in Alabama in the 1770s; first introduced to Florida in 1905 (Gucker 2009)

Means of Introduction: 

Originally cultivated as a possible food crop and ornamental in the 1800s (Miller et al. 2010)

Impact: 

Forms dense vines that smother native plants and trees (Overholt et al. 2008)

Spotlights

USDA. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is accepting comment on an Environmental Assessment (EA) that addresses the environmental impacts of releasing Asian leaf beetle (Lilioceris egena) to manage air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). After careful analysis APHIS has determined that the release of Asian leaf beetle within the continental United States will likely not have a significant impact on the environment. Air potato is a twining vine that can reach lengths of more than 65 feet and is capable of climbing and out-competing native vegetation.

APHIS will review and consider all public input submitted during the 30-day comment period and use the information to complete a final environmental assessment. Members of the public can review and comment on the assessment Jan 8, 2021 by accessing it and supporting documents here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2019-0068. This action will go into effect on Feb. 8, 2021, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

USDA. ARS. Tellus.

The plot could have come from Hollywood — an insidious alien invader threatens to overrun the land, but intrepid scientists discover a secret weapon in the far-off, exotic land of Nepal and bring the pestilence to heel. But this is not fiction; it's true. The air potato plant (Dioscorea bulbifera) is an exotic vine from Asia that was introduced to Florida about 115 years ago to make medicine. After escaping from the lab, it multiplied and smothered native plant communities in all of Florida's 67 counties. It spread beyond to large swaths of land in the southeastern United States. All attempts to manage the air potato – mechanical, chemical, or physically gathering the bulbils — were unsuccessful; they were either too labor intensive and costly or caused collateral damage to native and endangered species. According to Min Rayamajhi, a plant pathologist at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Invasive Plant Research Laboratory (IPRL) in Fort Lauderdale, FL, the vines return every season, repeating the growth cycle and expanding the invasion at a rate of about 6 inches per day. Rayamajhi and retired ARS scientist Bob Pemberton traveled to Nepal and accidentally discovered the air potato beetle.

Air Potato Patrol.

The Air Potato Patrol is a citizen science project that involves scientists and researchers with the USDA and the State of Florida and of course you — citizens concerned about the effects of invasive species on our economy and environment. We’re looking for volunteers who are willing to go through our training and report data to the researchers on what is happening to the air potato growing on your property. This citizen science project is open to anyone who wants to help and is easy to become involved with.

Distribution / Maps / Survey Status

University of Georgia. Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.
Provides state, county, point and GIS data. Maps can be downloaded and shared.

Images

University of Georgia. Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.

Videos

Google. YouTube; University of Florida. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

This is the story of a multi-agency group -- the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the Florida Ag Division of Plant Industry and the University of Florida/IFAS -- working together on a biological control to combat the invasive Air Potato weed in Florida.

Selected Resources

The section below contains highly relevant resources for this species, organized by source. Or, to display all related content view all resources for Air Potato.

Partnership
IUCN. Species Survival Commission. Invasive Species Specialist Group.
University of Georgia. Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.
USDA. FS. Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry.

Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Galveston Bay Estuary Program; Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC).

Federal Government
USDA. FS. Rocky Mountain Research Station. Fire Sciences Laboratory.
Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce.
USDA. NRCS. National Plant Data Center.

USDA. ARS. National Genetic Resources Program.

International Government
Brisbane City Council (Australia).
Academic

University of Florida. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

See also: IPM Florida - Invasive Plants for more publications
University of Florida. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.
Electronic Data Information Source - publication resources

University of Florida. IFAS. Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.

University of Florida. IFAS Extension. Solutions for Your Life.

Citations