MARCH 2017

SJR State campuses 500lbs free of invasive species

student with air potatoes
group of students
students hunting for potatoes

St. Johns River State College was among the seven organizations participating in the 11th annual First Coast Air Potato Roundup. The Invasive Species Management Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District and partners at the First Coast Invasive Working Group hosted the event to celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

More than 30 volunteers, comprised of students, friends and faculty members from the Orange Park and St. Augustine campuses came together for the one-day event to collect and remove more than 500 pounds of air potatoes and vines from the two campuses.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection states that air potatoes are fast-growing vines, with tubers that resemble potatoes. These vines can grow up to eight inches per day and will continue to grow new vines for up to 20 years. While first introduced to Florida as a decorative plant in the 1800s, the air potato population has grown to become a severe danger to the state’s ecosystem.

“Air potatoes are an invasive species that stifles native species of plants,” said SJR State instructor Karen Meyer, who served as the site captain for the Orange Park campus roundup.

“These roundups are a way to help keep the population of the species under control,” she said.

Additional locations participating in the roundup event included the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Tree Hill Nature Center, Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, Walter Jones Historical Park and Egans Creek Greenway in Fernandina Beach.

Meyer said the roundup positively affects the SJR State students who participated in the event. “The students learn about invasive species and gain better understanding on their impact on the environment,” she said. “I love this activity, because it gets the students in the woods - into nature. Overall, today was an awesome event.”



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4020