Asia and Africa
Introduced to Florida in 1905 as a medicinal plant
Air potato is a vine with large, green, heart-shaped leaves. It twines on shrubs and trees, growing up to 100 feet into tree canopies. Air potato rarely flowers in Florida. It is a member of the yam family and produces large numbers of aerial bulbils, or "potatoes." Some of these “potatoes” are brown with rough-skin, and some are tan with smooth skin. The vines die in the fall and grow back from underground tubers in the spring. Bulbils that have fallen off the vines sprout new vines.
Air potato grows fast and branches profusely, smothering other plants. It can form a solid canopy, cutting off light to plants below. Air potato vine changes entire plant communities and decreases wildlife habitat. It has engulfed many wooded areas in recreational parks and private lands in Florida.
Air potato vines are found in almost every county in Florida (and in neighboring states, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii). It occurs in upland natural areas as well as in seasonally wet areas.
Report Brazilian peppertree in natural areas on IveGot1.org or using the IveGot1 reporting app.
In 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) approved the release of a beetle (Lilioceris cheni), native to Nepal and southern China, which feeds specifically on Florida's air potato vines. These air potato leaf beetles are now being mass produced and released into different areas of Florida by the USDA, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Fort Pierce Lab of the University of Florida. Preliminary results show extensive damage to air potato vines, but researchers are studying why the vine appears to be resistant in some areas.