Florida experts create air potato patrol to battle invasive plant

Damage on the leaves of Air Potato twining vines caused by beetles is shown, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at Kendall Indian Hammocks Park in Miami. Beetles, called Lilioceris cheni or Lili, can help fight the herbaceous Air Potato twining vine that’s listed as one of Florida’s most invasive plant species and smothers native vegetation. The “Lili” beetle is native to Asia and Africa and was first released by USDA in 2011 in Florida to provide a chemical-free method for combating the invasive vine. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Agriculture experts in Florida are enlisting the state’s residents in a war against an invasive species, and are recruiting people to something called the “air potato patrol.”

A news release sent Thursday by the University of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture says experts are starting a citizen science project that trains residents to identify and report air potato vines in Florida and the Southeast.

Air potato plants grow aggressively and can quickly overtake and kill other vegetation.

The plant is found in 60 of the 67 counties in Florida, as well as in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.

Researchers also want to know if folks see air potato leaf beetles, which eat the plants and reduce the scourge.

Videos and information on how to participate: http://www.airpotatobeetle.com.

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