You don’t want to eat this potato

by Kelly White

Non-native invasive plants can be a real problem in our local preservation parks, that is why we, as a supporter of the parks, host volunteer events to remove these invasive plants from our natural ecosystems. One of those events is taking place Saturday, February 29, as part of the annual one-day volunteer effort The Weed Wrangle® to remove invasive species from public parks and green spaces.

These types of efforts are important because invasive plants grow rapidly and spread, allowing them to take over a large area and harm the native environment. They can:

  • reduce biodiversity
  • encroach upon endangered and threatened species
  • destroy the habitat of native insects, birds and other wildlife
  • disrupt pollination, seed dispersal and host-plant relationships
  • hybridize with native plants and alter their genetics
  • reduce the amount of space, water, sunlight and nutrients that would otherwise be available for the native plants
  • take over fields, forests, and roadsides
  • make us more susceptible to coastal flooding and disturb natural habitats
 Removing air potato vines from Hanna Park.

Removing air potato vines from Hanna Park.

According to a University of Florida IFAS Extension publication, nearly 30 percent of the more than 4,000 known plant species in Florida are not native.

You have probably seen invasive plants in one form or another along the road, in our parks, in your neighborhood or your own yard.

Removal of these invasive plants is key to successful management which is why we ask for your help many times throughout the year to clean up our preservation parks. When you remove these plants, please make sure you are wearing gloves and throw all the vines and clippings away so they have less opportunity to regrow.

Invasive plants in our area include:

The invasive sword fern

This invasive can take over and displace other ferns, low growing plants and ground covers. This fern has serrated leaflets and can produce tubers distinguishing them from the native kind which do not produce tubers and have more sharply pointed leaflet tips.

The air potato

You don’t want to eat this potato. It is a vine that can grow to the tops of trees and take over the native plants. You can see this in our local preserves and along many trails.

The wild taro

This invasive plant can be found along many of our local waterways. It grows quickly and can crowd out native vegetation that help to make our coastal ecosystems more resilient to hurricanes and storm damage.

You can learn more about these invasive plants at The Weed Wrangle® on Saturday, February 29—as well as help in removing them from our public parks and green spaces. There are three locations on the First Coast where Timucuan Parks Foundation is leading the invasive plant removal and we would like you to join us.

We will be working alongside:

  • JaxParks at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park at 500 Wonderwood Dr.
  • the City of Jacksonville Beach to remove the Brazilian pepper from Cradle Creek Preserve at 900 South 15th Street. Since the Brazilian pepper has an aromatic sap that can cause skin reactions in some, this event is open only to ages 16 and up.
  • the National Park Service at the Ribault Column at 13101 Fort Caroline Rd.

There are also a few others around town hosted by our park partners and park supporters. You can check out all local events for the Weed Wrangle.