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Invasive Air Potatoes

Story Highlights
  • One of the most ferocious growing and invasive natural phenomenon to hit the Grand Isle forest.

Students from Grand Isle School have been helping collect air potatoes to combat their spread.

Air Potatoes, Dioscorea bulbifera, are one of the most ferocious growing and invasive natural phenomenon to hit the Grand Isle Maritime Forest since Hurricane Katrina! This vine covers the understory and climbs to the tree tops. With leaves as large as dinner plates, one can imagine the amount of sunlight that other plants are denied. 

Air potatoes grow extremely quickly, about 8 inches per day, and can eventually reach over 60 feet long. The bulbils on the vines sprout and become new vines, twisting around each other to form a thick mat. If the plant is cut to the ground, the tubers can survive for extended periods and send up new shoots later. The best methods of control are herbicides, vine pulling, and potato removal. Our Stewardship team has been trying all of the methods over the past 3 years but there are more vines growing each spring. In December 2013 Grand Isle Elementary students belonging to The Nature Club collected 410 pounds of air potatoes and in January, 2014 Grand Isle High School students working for “Community Service” hours collected over 600 pounds. There are still many more to be collected before they sprout. Help us rid the forest of this pest before it destroys the entire understory and eventually the forest itself.

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