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Air Potato – Invasive Plant Species

Dioscorea bulbifera

USDA Forest Service, Southern Region, National Forests in Florida, September 2000, Protection Report R8-PR 45.

Environmental Impact

  • Is a non-native, exotic plant (from tropical Asia, Africa) without native insects or diseases to keep its growth in check
  • Disrupts native plant communities by forming impenetrable vines on native trees and shading out understory vegetation
  • Negatively impacts wildlife dependent on native vegetation for forage, nesting, and cover
  • Interferes with ecosystem integrity by threatening biodiversity and ecosystem stability in natural areas
  • Increases taxes or fees required to offset costs associated with invasive plant management


  • Perennial, twining vine that reaches well into the canopy of 60 plus foot tall trees
  • Alternate, broad, heart-shaped leaves with prominent parallel veins that converge at the basal lobes
  • Large numbers of aerial bulbils resembling potatoes form in the leaf axils in late summer
  • Plants die back to tubers in winter
  • Found from uplands to lowlands

If you are still in doubt, county extension agents are able to assist with the identification of plants.

Control Methods

  • Hand pull or disconnect vine-stems to prevent aerial "potato" (bulbil) production; every "potato" is a potential new plant.
  • Dig up underground tubers or germinating "potatoes." Place them in a black plastic bag until they have degraded, or burn them.
  • Continue to hand pull sprouting vines to deplete the food reserves of germinated "potatoes."
  • If aerial "potatoes" have already formed, hand pick and place them in a black plastic bag until they have degraded, or burn them.
  • A 1% triclopyr ester or a 1% glyphosate solution will kill the vegetative part of the plant (foliar application).
  • Cut stem treatment with 50% triclopyr amine or 10% triclopyr ester applied within 5 minutes of cutting will be translocated to the underground tuber *.
  • Basal bark treatment of 10% triclopyr ester applied to stems emerging from tubers will be translocated to the underground tuber.
  • If "potatoes" are present on the vines, a basal bark treatment should be used; herbicide will be translocated to the "potatoes".

Triclopyr products, such as Brush-B-Gon®, and glyphosate products, such as Roundup® and Rodeo® (labeled for aquatic areas), are available in local garden and hardware stores. Always use herbicides according to the label. Remember: The label is the law!


Pesticides used improperly can be injurious to humans, animals, and plants.

  • Read, understand, and follow the label.
  • Learn and follow all State and local rules.
  • Store pesticide safely in original containers.
  • Apply pesticides so that they do not endanger humans, or non-target animals or plants.
  • If a pesticide is swallowed or gets in the eyes, follow the first-aid treatment given on the label, and get prompt medical attention.
  • If a pesticide is spilled on your skin or clothing, remove clothing immediately and wash skin thoroughly.
  • Do not clean spray equipment or dump excess spray material in or near water.
  • Dispose of empty pesticide containers properly and promptly.

For additional information, please contact:

  • Lorraine Miller
    Ocala National Forest
    17147 East HWY 40
    Silver Springs, FL 34488
    Phone: (352) 625-2520
    TDD: (850) 942-9351
    Fax: (352) 625-7556

The use of trade or firm names in this publication is for reader information and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of any product or service.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of programs information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD).

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence AVE, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal employment opportunity provider and employer.

This pamphlet was produced by the USDA Forest Service through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation "Pulling Together Initiative" challenge grant, and donations by Monsanto Company and the University of Central Florida’s Agriculture-Horticulture Club and Environmental Society.

USDA Forest ServiceUSDA APHIS PPQ The Bugwood Network University of Georgia is a joint project of The Bugwood Network, USDA Forest Service and USDA APHIS PPQ.
The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forest Resources and
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology
Last updated on Thursday, July 25, 2002 at 03:11 PM
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