Fall 2007 Issue

You Say Potato

Often unseen and generally overlooked, the West African air potato may be one of South Florida’s most significant environmental challenges.

However, Barry University’s chapter of the Tri-Beta National Biology Honor Society did its best to tackle the issue during a Feb.14 volunteer activity.

Six Tri-Beta students gathered at Elaine Gordon Park in North Miami to join in fellowship and hard labor with four volunteers from Cooper City High School. Working on their hands and knees, the volunteers cleared nearly 750 pounds of air potato tubers from the dense undergrowth despite the warm weather and thick vegetation. The park considers the air potato a very serious problem in South Florida and has developed a strategy to hand-pick the air potatoes during the dry season, which is where volunteers such as the Tri-Beta students come in.

Tri-Beta co-counselors, Drs. Leticia Vega and Jeremy Montague, organized the trip, which provided a hands-on opportunity for students to study applied botany and learn more about South Florida’s threatened native plant community. While not nearly as infamous as the Melaleuca tree or the Brazilian pepper, the West African air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) is listed as a major noxious invasive plant by the state of Florida.