Have you ever seen a brown bulb on the ground that looks like a potato? It could be an air potato, an invasive species in Florida.

What’s going on?

Air potato is an invasive plant that was introduced to Florida from Africa in the early 1900s. It is a member of the yam family and produces many large aerial bulbils that resemble potatoes. In the spring, air potato vines sprout from underground tubers and bulbils that dropped during the previous growing season. These vines grow very quickly at roughly 8 inches per day and climb to the tops of trees. If the vines go unmanaged, they can smother native trees and understory plant species, limiting their access to sunlight. Air potato is found in urban and natural areas throughout the state, from Escambia County in the panhandle all the way down to the Florida Keys.  

Why it matters.

Air potato is one of the most aggressive weeds ever introduced to Florida because of its ability to displace native species and disrupt fire cycles and water flow. Therefore, it is listed as a noxious weed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and as a Category I invasive plant by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Native plants are important to Florida ecosystems because they provide food and shelter to animals and stability to the ecosystem. If air potato is unmanaged, it can outcompete native plants for resources like sunlight and disrupt ecosystems critical to Florida’s environment and economy.  

How to identify.

  • Leaves are heart-shaped with a pointed apex 
  • Stems are smooth and rounded 
  • Bulbils are light tan and smooth to dark brown and rough 
    • Size ranges from as small as a pea to as large as a grapefruit 
  • Tubers resemble bulbils, but are found underground and have remnants of roots on them 

What you can do.

  • If you find air potato on your property: 
    • Cut vines that are high in trees. 
    • Collect and destroy tubes and bulbils. 
  • Join the Air Potato Patrol Citizen Science Project 
    • It’s a collaboration between UF/IFAS Extension, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and you. 
    • Volunteer to go through training and report data to the researchers on what is happening to the air potato growing on your property.  


Information from UF/IFAS and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.