Help rid UF of pesky invasive plants


Published: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 9:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 9:47 a.m.

Volunteers will be getting dirty and rounding up invasive plants from three sites on the University of Florida campus this weekend in conjunction with Invasive Plant Awareness Week.

On Saturday, a projected 1,000 volunteers will participate in the 8th Annual Great Air Potato Round-Up at a total of 32 sites around Alachua County with three locations at UF, according to Gary Paul, a program coordinator for the Nature Operations Division of the city of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

“It's a battle that you're never going to win, but it does help keep them at bay,” Paul said.

Alison Fox, chairwoman of the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, said about 127 invasive species are growing in Florida. Of the 127 species, 67 are invasive plants that Florida should be particularly concerned with, she said.

“Different species cause different problems,” Fox said. “Some just look weird and some can affect recreational use, have human, economic and ecological impacts."

The air potato, which grows aerial tubors that can grow to be as big as a softball, has no natural enemies and tends to grow wildly, crowding out — and sometimes killing — native plants. At UF, air potato plants will be harvested from Bartram Woods, the president's house and the plant and tree nursery near the bat house.

This will be the third time participating in the Annual Air Potato Round-Up for Lauren Long, a 21-year-old environmental science major at UF. For the past two years, Long helped out with the roundup at a site near the bat house on campus.

“Every year our efforts take out a large chunk of the air potato problem," Long said. "I doubt that we will be able to erase the invasive plant problem in this way, but I think we are doing a good job in keeping it under control.”

Volunteers will be harvesting the air potatoes at various sites from 9 to 11 a.m. A celebration at Morningside Nature Center follows. Participants will receive a free T-shirt.

Interested volunteers can register online for the 8th Great Annual Air Potato Round-Up at www.natureoperations.org.

“It's a great way to spend a few hours and efforts will make Gainesville a better community,” Paul said.

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