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Friday, June 14, 2024

Efforts to eradicate Gainesville's invasive species continue

A new volunteer program hopes to mobilize Gainesville residents against a pesky plant. 

The City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department recently announced a series of events scheduled for the first Saturday of every month.

From 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., volunteers will target a plant called Coral ardisia, an invasive species that quickly reproduces and spreads, Grace Howell, a habitat naturalist for the department, said. 

“It changes the ecosystem by creating a dense monoculture of an invasive species and doesn’t allow the native plants to grow there, which is important for wildlife and for the ecosystem health,” Howell said.

The new initiative stemmed from the Gainesville Greenway Challenge to protect natural areas, and it gathers volunteers who remove invasive species from parks throughout the city, she said. 

The challenge first prioritized the removal of Coral ardisia last year, Howell said. 

Volunteers previously targeted air potatoes, another fast-growing plant.

In 2013, an air potato leaf beetle was released, which ate the air potatoes and left nothing for volunteers to pluck from the ground, she said.

Gainesville then transitioned from the Great Air Potato Roundup to the current Great Invader Raider Rally, Geoffrey Parks, the natural resource management program coordinator for the department, said.  

“The big difference really is that air potatoes are really easy to pick up,” Parks said. “You don’t need any tools, and it doesn’t take a lot of muscle, whereas removing ardisia is a little more labor-intensive, especially if you’re trying to pull plants out of the ground.”

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