Air potato (Dioscores bulbifera) is a perennial, herbaceous self-twining vine that can grow over 60 feet in length, enabling it to climb over and smother many native plants. The Florida Exotic Plant Pest Council (FLEPPC) lists air potato as a Category 1 invasive plant, which means that it has disrupted natural communities and ecological functions by displacing native plant species.
In 2012, a leaf feeding beetle (Lilioceris cheni) was introduced into South Florida from China for biological control of air potato. Although it is too early to determine any potential long-term impacts, the initial results have been promising. The larvae and adults of the air potato leaf beetle feed on the leaf tissue and occasionally the bulbils. The damage to the growing tips of the plant have dramatically reduced its ability to cover native vegetation. Extensive damage to air potato was evident within three months after the first release. Additionally, testing by scientists at the USDA/ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale concluded that the beetle will not complete development on any other plant found in Florida.
Air potato beetle up close. Photo by Julie McConnell
The female air potato leaf beetle lays an average of 1,200 eggs, which develop into larvae in about four days. The young beetles skeletonize the air potato leaves for the next eight days and then pupate into foam-like cocoons. Clumps of cocoons fall to the ground and the adult beetles emerge 13 to 16 days later. There can be a new generation of air potato leaf beetle every month while the weather is warm. For the winter, the adults hide in leaf litter and wait for spring.
The question now is: “How well will they survive through a longer, colder Northwest Florida winter?”. USDA scientists, UF Extension agents and citizen scientists in Bay and Okaloosa County hope to find out. Earlier this month, June 2015, air potato leaf beetles from the Hayslip Biological Control and Research and Containment Laboratory in Ft. Pierce were released into areas containing air potato. They will be monitored over the next year. Look for an update this coming summer.
Japanese Climbing Fern can quickly cover natural vegetation. Spores and small plants can be potentially transported in pine straw. Climbing ferns are a problem for managed timber and home landscapes. Photo by L. Scott Jackson
Both ferns reproduce and spread readily by wind-blown spores. Animals, equipment, and even people that move through an area with climbing ferns are very likely to pick up spores and move them to other locations on the property or even to other properties.
Japanese climbing fern is a delicate looking perennial climbing vine. It is capable of forming a dense mat-like thatch capable of covering trees and shrubs. Initially, it was introduced from Japan as an ornamental. It is scattered throughout the lower portions of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and south into central Florida. Further planting or cultivation of this vine is prohibited by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Old World climbing fern has been a problem for many years in central and south Florida but it is currently moving north. The northern edge of its advance is now just south of Marion County.
Adequate control of both climbing ferns has been achieved with multiple applications of glyphosate. Other herbicides have also been used to control Japanese climbing fern.
As with most invasive plants, repeated and correctly timed treatments are likely to be necessary.
For more information about climbing ferns contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office and read the following publication: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr133
Woodlands and rangelands are important to both our economy and environment. Photo by Judy Ludlow
Most of us living in panhandle Florida recognize that our farmers and ranchers are committed to sustainable production of food, fiber, and fuel for generations to come, but how will farmers continue to be productive while sharing natural resources with an ever growing population and an intricate environment? How will Florida’s agricultural lands, rangelands, and woodlands continue to contribute to the quality of our environment and to our economy?
According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service “Range and pasture lands are diverse types of land where the primary vegetation produced is herbaceous plants and shrubs. These lands provide forage for beef cattle….and other types of domestic livestock. Also many species of wildlife…depend on these lands for food and cover.” Florida’s rangelands and woodlands are a significant component of Florida’s agricultural industry.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture there were:
3,749,647 acres of permanent pasture and rangeland in Florida
1,368,171 acres of pastured woodland in Florida
Benefits of Rangelands:
Florida’s 5.1 million acres of agricultural rangelands and woodlands not only support the economy, but abundant wildlife too. These well managed lands are living systems sustaining livestock, wildlife, and healthy soils. Benefits of these lands include important economic and ecological services like reducing our carbon footprint, increasing water conservation, providing forage for livestock, habitat for wildlife and game, preservation of cultural heritage, and sustainable timber. Additionally, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing is a multi-billion dollar industry within which Florida’s rangelands play a significant role. Florida’s rangelands are also important for the continued survival of many threatened species like the Crested Caracara, Snail Kite, Gopher Tortoise, Florida Scrub-Jay, Eastern Indigo Snake, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, and Sandhill Cranes.
Gopher Tortoise. Photo by Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Sandhill Cranes in a North Florida pasture. UF/IFAS Photo by Josh Wickham.
Challenges to Florida’s Rangelands:
Threats to Florida rangelands include conversion into urban areas and fragmentation of large tracts of lands causing disconnection from other farmlands and natural areas. Contiguous, connected “wildlife corridors,” are important for many species of wildlife. Additionally, the establishment of non-native, invasive animals and plants; and alterations of natural and necessary processes such as fire, floods, and droughts, can disrupt the full economic and environmental potential of these lands.
Agricultural Best Management Practices and Education:
Today’s farmers use best management practices (BMPs) relying on up-to-date technologies and research to protect Florida’s unique natural resources, especially our precious water, while at the same time maximizing their production. BMPs are based on University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) research and are practical, cost-effective actions that agricultural producers can take to conserve water and reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste, and other pollutants entering our water supply. They are designed to benefit water quality and water conservation while maintaining or even enhancing agricultural production. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, for example, agricultural producers save 11 billion gallons of water each year by their conservation practices.
Many of Florida’s rangeland and woodland owners also take advantage of educational programs available to them such as the UF/IFAS Forest Stewardship Program. The mission of this multi-agency program is to help and encourage private landowners to manage their lands for long-term environmental, economic, and social benefits. According to their annual report: “In 2014 the Program reached 503 landowners and professionals directly with workshops and field tours. These landowners and professionals collectively own and/or manage over 2 million acres across Florida.”
Summary and Additional Resources:
Florida’s agriculture producers are deeply committed to being stewards of their lands and our surrounding environment. Their adoption and support of best management practices as well as continuing education is critical for sustainable production and also for feeding the world of the future.
For more information on this topic please see the following resources:
Cogongrass Photo Credit: Chris Evans, Illionois Wildlife Action Plan, www.bugwood.org
Cogongrass is one of the 10 worst weeds in the world. This grass is an aggressive grower and forms colonies causing loss of productive forest areas, severe degradation of habitat, and economic issues. Since its introduction in the 1900s, Cogongrass has spread to most of the counties in Florida. Reproduction occurs through seed production and the creeping rhizome system. This plant is prolific once established with the creation of a very dense rhizome system that retains water and releasing of allelopathic chemicals reducing competition from other plants.
Cogongrass is yellow/green in color with an off-set midrib and a fluffy white seed head. Cogongrass is drought and shade tolerant. Once this grass invades, it will quickly displace the native species and requires frequent and intensive controls.
Early detection is best since a small infestation is easier and cheaper to treat. The larger infestations become more time intensive, expensive, and difficult. There are treatment options for these infestations, make sure that specific instructions are followed and treatment is repeated.
For more information on the biology of this plant and various treatment options visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wg202. Also, by contacting your local UF/IFAS Extension office for assistance and information.
Cogongrass is a fire-adapted species, thriving where fire is a regular occurrence. In fact, the threat of wildfires greatly increases with the presence of cogongrass, a non-native invasive species. Cogongrass fires burn hotter and faster than native grass fires. This footage, shot in Baldwin County, Alabama, demonstrates how destructive a cogongrass fire can be to native vegetation.
Tawny Crazy Ant (Nylanderia fulva):
Cleaning up large piles of dead ants are a daily cleanup chore for this homeowner. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS Extension Okeechobee County
Nylanderia fulva is part of the group of ants called “crazy ants” due to their erratic and quick movements. These ants are medium to small and goldish brown to reddish brown in color. The Tawny Crazy Ants nest in large numbers in leaf litter, soil, rotten logs, under potted plants and along underground electrical conduits.
Nylanderia fulva is a nuisance to humans. They infest gardens, sidewalks and other areas of human traffic. They cause damage to electrical lines. They also displace other native ant species due to their large colony size.
This ant, Nylanderia fulva, has been confused with several other ants such as the Nylanderia pubens and Nylanderia guatemalensis.
Controlling the bug population in your garden and around your home will help decrease the likelihood of Tawny Crazy Ants invading. Avoid transporting plant material, mulches and such to uninfested areas. Granular baits can be used to control smaller populations but large populations will probably need a professional pest control service.
Giant Tiger Prawn: This large shrimp, also known as the Asian Tiger Shrimp and the Black Tiger Shrimp, can reach lengths between 8-12 inches. It resembles are native edible penaeid shrimp but differs in that it has distinct black and yellow stripes. It was brought to the U.S. from the Indo-Pacific region as an aquaculture product. There was an accidental release of 2,000 animals from a South Carolina farm in 1988.
The nonnative Giant Tiger Prawn – also known as the Black Tiger Shrimp. Photo by David Knott, Bugwood.org
Reports of this shrimp in the wild have increased over time. They have been found in all Gulf coast states and there has been at least 1 record in each of the Florida Panhandle counties.
The impact of this shrimp to our area is still unknown but they have a high tolerance for salinity change and consume many types of benthic invertebrates. It is thought that they could become serious competition for our native penaeid shrimp and could possible transmit diseases.
If you think you have found one of these shrimp, record size location (GPS preferred), and email information to ExoticReports@MyFWC.com. To learn more about this species view the USGS factsheet.
For more information contact the author Rick O’Connor, UF/IFAS Escambia County Extension – Sea Grant and Marine Science Extension Agent, 850-475-5230.
Climbing Ferns (Lygodium japonicum and Lygodium microphyllum):
Japanese Climbing Fern (Lygodium japonicum) and Old World Climbing Ferns (Lygodium microphyllum): are presently the only non-native invasive ferns in Florida. Both ferns reproduce and spread readily by wind-blown spores. A single fertile leaflet can produce 28,600 spores. Animals, equipment, and even people that move through an area with climbing ferns are very likely to pick up spores and move them to other locations on the property or even to other properties.
Japanese Climbing Fern Lygodium japonicum photo by Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
Japanese climbing fern is a delicate looking perennial climbing vine. It is capable of forming a dense mat-like thatch capable of covering trees and shrubs. Initially, it was introduced from Japan as an ornamental. It is scattered throughout the lower portions of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and south into central Florida. Further planting or cultivation of this vine is prohibited by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It climbs very quickly to the crowns of pine trees, which can move fire into the growth points during controlled burns, making it a concern on forested lands.
Old World climbing fern has been a problem for many years in central and south Florida but it is currently moving north. The first plant was documented in 1958 by a nursery in Delray Beach. By 1965, it was found in natural areas of Marion County. The northern edge of its advance by 2012 was Hernando County on the Gulf side and Duval County on the Atlantic coast.
Adequate control of both climbing ferns has been achieved with multiple applications of glyphosate and/or metsulfuron. Other herbicides, such as triclopyr and imazapic have also been used to
control Japanese climbing fern. However, when the plant is growing in areas adjacent to wetlands or water, fewer herbicides are registered for those sites. Hand digging is also an option, except when the fern is producing spore covered leaflets. Disturbing it then would propagate more plants.
Old World Climbing Fern has moved northward from South Florida into Central Florida. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org
Red Lionfish are a predatory reef fish that are non-native invasive species and have spread throughout Florida Waters. They are members of the family Scorpaenidae whose members are venomous and the lionfish is no exception. This fish is relatively small ranging from 10-12 inches in length and have a zebra-like appearance with long, showy pectoral fins. They have a row of long dorsal spines that contain venom glands. Their native range is the South Pacific and Indian Oceans and preferred habitat is on offshore reef structures. These fish are considered to be voracious eaters feeding on native fish, reducing vital native populations, and competing for food with native fish such as grouper and snapper.
With few predators, these fish are thriving in Florida waters, even in the northern Gulf of Mexico. They reproduce often, under good conditions as often as every 3-4 days, with eggs hatching after about two days. They also consume a variety of local species. Research has found in some cases there has been an 80% decline in reef fish recruitment and loss of some economically important species. These fish are able to expand their stomachs for large meals and can survive starvation for over 12 weeks. Lionfish are an invasive species in our local waters and removal is encouraged.
The most effective control of this species is removal by spearfishing; though some recent reports of hook and line capture using live bait have occurred. Lionfish are cryptic and nocturnal but local divers have found them hovering near reefs at midday. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) changed regulations to increase harvesting opportunities. Such changes include no requirement for a recreational fishing license when using spearing devices (pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, handheld net, or spearing devices marked for use on lionfish), and no recreational or commercial bag limit; though recreational fishing license is required for other fishing methods. Check the FWC regulations before fishing or diving for these species.
Lionfish are venomous, must be handled carefully, venom glands occur on the dorsal, pelvic and anal spines. Lionfish sightings can be reported at 877.786.7267, the newly released FWC lionfish app,or (if in the Pensacola area) the lionfish map. If stung the wound can be treated with warm (but not scalding) water. You may need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Rarely are stings fatal unless the person has an allergic reaction. The Poison Help Hotline can be reached at 800.222.1222. Inshore sighting information is being collected by Florida Sea Grant in Escambia County to track the movement of these species. You can fill out the online report on the USGS website or the REEF website and stay up to date on research as it pertains to this species at the new NOAA lionfish portal and Florida Sea Grant.
For more information contact the author Rick O’Connor, UF/IFAS Escambia County Extension – Sea Grant and Marine Science Extension Agent, 850-475-5230.
Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera):
Large heart-shaped leaves completely cover this fence-row in Bay County. Photo by Julie McConnell.
Air potato is a tall climbing herbaceous plant that is in the yam family and can overtake natural and urban areas in a very short time. Air Potato uses twining tendrils that allow it to quickly climb over shrubs, trees, and man-made structures. The large heart-shaped leaves and potato looking “bulbils” that hang from the vine make identification fairly easy. The bulbils spread the growth of the plant, along with underground tubers. The plant will die back during the winter, but unless the vines, bulbils and underground tubers are removed, it will come back in the spring. The air potato is native to Asia and was introduced in Florida in the 1905. The potato is not good to eat and in some cases, may be poisonous.
There are a number of ways to control this species, and using a combination of methods may lead to greater success. Eliminating the vines and bulbils by collecting them, be sure to dispose of them where they will not be spread to other areas. The bulbils and underground tubers cannot survive freezing temperatures, so placing them in a freezer for a day and then disposing of them will help eliminate new growth.
Some cites in Florida have sponsored activities that involve the community in gathering air potato and other invasive species. Collecting the bulbils and underground tubers is easiest to do during the winter, when the green vegetation has dies back.
Herbicide treatments are best when applied during the late part of the growing season when plants are sending carbohydrates to the root system this is usually August through October. Wait as late as possible but before the leaves start turning yellow to apply. Yearly treatments may be needed to eventually eliminate the plant entirely. Apply herbicides according to the label on the herbicide container and apply with caution as not to spray other plants. For more information on types and strengths of herbicides to use in the fight against air potato, click here. If you have questions on using herbicides contact your local county extension office.
Biological controls are being tested in various parts of Florida using a beetle that was found to dine on air potato vegetation and tubers at different life stages. For more information on biological controls, click here.
Click here for an identification card for the air potato. For more information contact the author Chris Verlide, UF/IFAS Santa Rosa County Extension – Sea Grant Extension Agent, 850-623-3868.
Air Potato can spread quickly along the ground and into trees. Photo by Julie McConnell (click for larger image)