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Posted 2/8/2018

Release no. 18-007

Erica Skolte
561-329-6714 (cell)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – First Coast residents can fight invasive species by participating in the 12th Annual First Coast Air Potato (and other invasive plants) Roundup Saturday, March 3, 9 a.m. – noon in Jacksonville, Florida and the surrounding area. The Invasive Species Management Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District and partners at the First Coast Invasive Working Group host the event to celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

“This annual volunteer effort, combined with the use of a tiny biocontrol, the air potato leaf beetle, have been so successful that we can expand our efforts beyond air potato,” said Jessica Spencer, Jacksonville District biologist. “After collecting air potatoes for the past 12 years, we are now transitioning our annual air potato roundup into a more inclusive ‘Air Potato (and other invasive plants) Round-up,’said Spencer.“We will still collect air potatoes to donate to the biocontrol beetle rearing facility in Gainesville, but volunteers can now focus on other problematic species, such as kalanchoe, aptly nicknamed ‘mother of millions’ and coral ardisia, which has red berries that are spread widely by birds and small mammals, as well as camphor tree, wild taro, heavenly bamboo and more.”

Volunteers can visit new work sites this year, including Dutton Island Preserve in Jacksonville, Deep Creek Conservation Area – Edgefield Tract in Palatka and Camp Chowenwaw County Park in Green Cove Springs.

Work sites in Jacksonville:
• Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
• Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
• Tree Hill Nature Center
• Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
• Walter Jones Historical Park
• Dutton Island Preserve

Additional First Coast work sites:
• St. Johns River State College in Orange Park
• Deep Creek Conservation Area – Edgefield Tract in Palatka
• Camp Chowenwaw County Park in Green Cove Springs

“Invasive species such as air potato smother our native plants and are one of the greatest ecological threats to natural communities in Florida,” said Spencer. “The annual Air Potato (and other invasive plants) Roundup is a family-friendly event where people of all ages – even little ones - can get outdoors together and make a difference. Just grab your garden gloves, some sunscreen and the kids, and head over to one of the work sites. All participants will be entered into a random drawing for great prizes.”

Air potatoes grow on vines and drop to the ground in the winter. Each potato sprouts a new vine that can grow extremely quickly – about eight inches per day. The invasive vine grows to the tops of trees and smothers native plants. The potatoes can survive for 20 years and produce thousands of new potatoes during that time. For information on backyard air potato management, visit: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/Invasive%20Species/Air%20Potato%20Management%20in%20Your%20Backyard.pdf.

The roundup will take place at various locations in Jacksonville, Palatka, Green Cove Springs and Orange Park. 12th Annual First Coast Air Potato (and other invasive plants) Roundup Poster available at: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/Invasive%20Species/AP_Roundup_Flier_2018.pdf?ver=2018-02-08-151609-200

“The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will use all of the potatoes that we collect to rear air potato leaf beetles at their Gainesville biocontrol facility,” said Spencer. “The beetles have been so successful at reducing the numbers of air potatoes in Gainesville that the department is having a hard time finding enough potatoes to support the beetles at the rearing facility. By donating the air potatoes from our roundup, we will be supporting the work that they are doing to rear and release more biocontrol beetles.”

Residents and businesses can request beetles for release on their lands from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: http://bcrcl.ifas.ufl.edu/airpotatofiles/airpotatoforms.shtml

Registration is only required for large groups. The event may count as volunteer hours by school children looking for credit.
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.
For more information on National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Feb. 26 through March 2, 2017, including webinars: http://www.nisaw.org/

This information has been posted to the Jacksonville District Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict/ and on Twitter @JaxStrong. Please share widely on your social media platforms.

air potato air potato roundup Green Cove Springs invasive plants invasive species Jacksonvile District jacksonville Orange Park Palatka U.S Army Corps of Engineers