While those feeling cold and miserable in Northern climes bundle up and head for Punxsutawney to see how much longer they are going to be cold and miserable, residents of Gainesville, Florida, are out in the sun happily gathering air potatoes. Last year, they gathered 11 tons.
Air potatoes, Dioscorea bulbifera, are an invasive species native to Africa that were brought to the Americas during the time of the slave trade. While there are edible air potatoes, the Florida species isn't even palatable to goats, which is interesting because these air potatoes are somewhat toxic and I have found that goats (at least goats that you love or goats that have value) like poisonous plants second only to your neighbors' most cherished vegetation. Puzzling.
Regarding non-native species in general, I made this my mantra when I was a junior high science lab volunteer:
My theory was that if I could get those kids to absorb these 26 words, the world would be a better place in every way. Think about it. It isn't just air potatoes, or kudzu, or cane toads, or some other invasive species: it is Iraq and Korea and Abu Ghraib. And on the positive side, it is recycling and getting your dog neutered, donating blood, voting, being nice to waitresses, telling the truth, helping the helpless, and cleaning up your own messes. It is humility and gratefulness and forgiveness and graciously accepting the consequences of your actions. It is good manners.
So whether you are in Gainesville or Punxsutawney or Detroit, think about air potatoes and Francis Thompson and behave well today.
Saints celebrating feast days on January 29 include Saint Francis de Sales (patron saint of writers), Saint Sabinian, Saint Gildas the Wise, and Saint Sulpicius "Severus."
Celebrating birthdays today: John Forsythe (1918), Sara Gilbert (1975), Germaine Greer (1939), Ann Jillian (1951), Katharine Ross (1943)(married to Sam Elliott--what a hunk when he has a mustache--married since 1984), Tom Selleck (1945)(who would be a hunk if he didn't have such a whiny voice...Sam Elliott doesn't have a whiny voice), and Oprah Winfrey (1954).