JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –First coast residents can fight invasive species by participating in the 9th Annual First Coast Air Potato Roundup Saturday, Feb. 28 from 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.
“Invasive species such as air potato smother our native plants and are one of the greatest ecological threats to natural communities in Florida,” said Jessica Spencer, Jacksonville District biologist. “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. Just grab your garden gloves, some sunscreen and the kids, and head over to one of the work sites.”
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 takes over 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://1.usa.gov/1g5HyKv.
The round-up will take place at various locations in Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, St. Augustine and Orange Park, including
· the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens,
· Tillie K. Fowler Park,
· Jacksonville University,
· Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park,
· Tree Hill Nature Center and the
· Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens;
· Howell Park in Atlantic Beach;
· St. Johns River State College in St. Augustine; and
· St. Johns River State College in Orange Park.
“Last year, we collected 9,257 pounds of air potato during our First Coast Roundup,” said Tina Gordon, co-chair of the First Coast Invasive Working. “Howell Park came in with the most weight, about 2,600 pounds; and Jacksonville Arboretum had the most volunteers, with 74 people. Our two largest potatoes came from Tree Hill Nature Center, at a whopping 40.6 centimeters and 38.1 centimeters.”
“This year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will use some 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.”
Registration is only required for large groups. The event may count as volunteer hours by school children looking for credit.
Contact Jessica Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-232-1696 if you have questions or need additional information about the event.
For more information on National Invasive Species Week, including webinars: http://www.nisaw.org/index.html