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Air Potato

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)


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

Air potato
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Air potato, bulbils


Photo by Karen Brown; University of Florida

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  • APHIS Issues Notice of Final Environmental Assessment for a Biological Control Agent of Air Potato

    • May 5, 2022
    • USDA. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

    • The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has prepared a final environmental assessment (EA) that addresses the environmental impacts of releasing the beetle Lilioceris egena to biologically manage air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) in the continental United States. After careful analysis and review of comments, APHIS has determined that the release of this control agent within the continental United States will likely not have a significant impact on the environment and an environmental impact statement need not be prepared.

  • Science and Serendipity Defeat Invasion of the Air Potato

    • Jun 29, 2020
    • 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.

  • Join the Air Potato Patrol and Become a Citizen Scientist Today

    • 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


  • YouTube - Air Potato Biological Control

    • 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.

Federal Government
International Government
State and Local Government