This is air potato, an exotic vine from Asia. I liken it to Kudzu, because it has that ability to engulf disturbed areas and smother native plants with it's rapid growth.
Unlike Kudzu, air potato has no redeeming qualities ... Kudzu does have a few .
Airtaters are a member of the yam family, but the taters are bitter and according to IFAS, possibly poisonous. Each little tuber ... these are born aloft on the vine, not in the ground, can start a new plant. This makes removal pretty tricky, because if you miss one, you start over again. Around Florida, communities organize "Air Potato Pulls" where volunteers head out on a Saturday and try to strip the vile beast from some natural area it has invaded.
The air taters in the picture are from a little Air Potato Pull my Mom and I conducted one morning recently. We were walking around with Bear when I noticed that air potato had crept over the fence from the house behind hers. It was intermingling itself with the well behaved Confederate Jasmine that covered the fence, so herbicides were out of the question.
We spent a pleasant hour in the shade talking and stripping air tater vine from the fence.
It didn't seem like work at all.
Perhaps air potatoes do have one good use, besides inspiring quality time with your Mom ...
They make pretty good ammo.
When I was a kid, there was a big clump of air potato vines growing at my Papa's house and generally throughout the neighborhood. One day, my cousins and I were there at our grandparents, when we wandered down by the street near Papa's garage.
About that time some boys from the neighborhood walked by, words were exchanged as boys often do ... girls too these days, sigh.
Then someone picked up an air tater.
... And they threw it.
We probably set back the control of air potato a few years by tossing the viable tubers near and far, but no one back then ever worried about the spread of exotics.
I don't recall how many air taters were thrown that day, but I do know they sting when they hit you. In my memory, it was an epic battle, although in reality it was probably more of a skirmish. And when it ended, it ended. A draw as I recall, with no 9mm's being drawn, no drive-by shooting later in the day.
It may be a bit nostalgic, but it seems pretty harmless now. Some air taters tossed between two different tribes who met on the trail ...