Q: I have a problem with a lovely but horribly invasive vine that grows little potatoes on its stem. It sprouts and spreads like a demon – nearly taking over a 3 acre lot! What is it and what can I do about it?
A: Most folks afflicted with this pest call it “Tater Vine” or “Air Potato”. It is actually a variety of yam, scientifically identified as Dioscorea bulbifera. The glossy green leaves are certainly ornamental but the vine’s intrusive nature has placed it very near the top of Florida’s Invasive Plant list. I don’t know why it is not a worse pest here but we can all be thankful for small favors.
Like kudzu, air potato has a large starchy root. The root stores plenty of energy for re-sprouting if the leaves are cut off. A systemic weed killer like glyphosate (Roundup) or triclopyr (Brush Killer, Brush-B-Gon) would give you fair results immediately but you’ll need to re-apply the herbicide every time the leaves reappear. This will be quite a chore on a three acre landscape. You will have to protect other plants from the chemical spray but I think this is the best choice you have.
For more information you can visit the University of Florida’s Air Potato page.