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Posted 2/24/2014

Release no. 14-010

Erica Skolte

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Invasive Species Management Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District and our partners at the First Coast Invasive Working Group invite you to celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week by participating in the 8th Annual Air Potato Roundup on Saturday, March 1. Come join the fun and help your local community rid itself of air potato, an invasive vine that is choking our native vegetation.

“People often wonder how they can get involved and help out,” said biologist Jessica Spencer. “The annual Air Potato Roundup is a family-friendly event where people of all ages – even little ones - can get outdoors together and make a difference. Last year, 162 volunteers removed a combined 4,940 pounds of air potatoes from nine sites. Invasive species such as air potato smother our native plants and are one of the greatest ecological threats to natural communities in Florida. Roundup volunteers help protect and conserve Florida’s natural areas through the removal of air potato.”

The event will take place on Saturday, March 1 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at various locations in Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, St. Augustine and Orange Park. “Pick a location near you and come out to help battle this invasive vine,” said Spencer. “Volunteers will be asked to collect the ‘potatoes’ that grow on the vine and drop to the ground in the winter. Each of these potatoes will sprout a new vine that can grow extremely quickly – about eight inches per day. It climbs to the tops of trees and takes over native plants. The potatoes can survive for 20 years and produce thousands of new potatoes during that time!"

Work sites include the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Tillie K. Fowler Park, Jacksonville University, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Tree Hill Nature Center and the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens in Jacksonville; Howell Park in Atlantic Beach; Fort Mose Historic State Park and St. Johns River State College in St. Augustine; and Montclair Elementary School and St. Johns River State College in Orange Park. For more information about the locations, visit:  http://1.usa.gov/1j3UMLQ.

“No registration is necessary unless you’re bringing a large group,” said Spencer. “Just grab your garden gloves, some sunscreen and the kids, and head over to one of the work sites. Gift certificates from Kayak Amelia and Ripple Effects will be awarded for the two largest potatoes found!”
Contact Jessica Spencer at jessica.e.spencer@usace.army.mil or 904-232-1696 if you have questions or need additional information about the event.

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