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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Volunteers of all ages are fighting back this Saturday against a deadly threat - air potatoes.

More than 1,400 people have signed up for the Ninth Annual Great Air Potato Roundup to uproot the invasive species Dioscorea bulbifera, which can smother native plants.

"It actually kills," said Ludovica Weaver, marketing technician for Gainesville's Nature Operations Division of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, the city organization coordinating the roundup. "It has killed three perfectly healthy trees in my yard."

In the event's eight-year history, volunteers have picked more than 60 tons of the misshapen gray tubers.

This Saturday they will pick from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 33 sites scattered around Gainesville, including schools, parks and neighborhoods, before meeting up at Morningside Nature Center for a celebration.

Lunch will be served, prizes given away and free t-shirts featuring a colorful Seuss-like character doled out to volunteers.

"It's a celebration of taking back our natural areas," Weaver said.

Registration for the event began in the fall and closed in early January.

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