The Invasive Air Potato!

Air Potato Vine ©2015 MLighthipeYesterday was my 3rd year teaching at Plant Camp for the University of Florida. What is Plant Camp? Plant Camp is all about teaching TEACHERS to teach children about INVASIVE Plants. 24 teachers from the State of Florida are picked every year to participate in Plant Camp. It is funded by a grant and is FREE! ( I was one of them in 2012!)  Since 2012 I have been a part of Plant Camp demonstrating to the teachers how to introduce DRAWING and FIELD SKETCHING into their curriculum. Because of budget cuts, art classes are disappearing from the classroom. This is a way to get non-art teachers to get the students involved in the environment as well as get them to draw! For this year, I painted the Air Potato Vine and the Air Potato Beetle. The beetle is under a biological study at UFL to control the air potato in the wild without damaging other plants. The beetle was imported from Thailand and for the past 5 years it has been in a controlled environment and tested to see if it can control the invasive plant. So far it is doing great! The larva and the beetle don’t eat anything except the air potato vine! Hopefully it will pass all the  tests and be released into the wild so it can chomp away!

Here is a brief description of Plant Camp:

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When a non-native plant species spreads on its own, causing environmental and/or economic harm, it is considered invasive. In Florida, invasive plant species are blocking flood control devices and bridges; causing navigation problems on lakes and rivers; harboring mosquitos; creating fire pathways to tree tops; tangling electrical lines; and covering valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Aside from being a nuisance, invasive plants can even be dangerous for boaters, swimmers, hikers and homeowners. Managing invasive plants is expensive, costing Florida taxpayers more than 80 million dollars a year.

Prevention and education are needed to protect our waters and natural areas. That’s why we are seeking the help of educators to bring this important topic to the classroom. Join us this summer to learn about the numerous invasive plant (and animal) species silently invading Florida’s natural areas and neighborhoods. Along the way, learn about the wild and wonderful native flora and fauna that make Florida a unique place to live and a world-famous travel destination.

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Do you know a teacher in the State of Florida that might be interested in attending Plant Camp next year? It is FREE, all expenses paid, including hotel etc…. Please forward this blog post or send them to the Plant Camp website for more information.