A recent RSFF article discussed the air potato, a non-native vine. Naomi R. recently shared her thoughts about this plant, “I am writing in defense of the vine. I live in Beauregard Parish, south of Deridder and have enjoyed these vines for years. The first cool temps wither the leaves and the freezing takes care of the rest of the vines. I harvest the potatoes to share, sell and plant again. I love the heart shaped leaf, and let it take over the first year after my husband passed. (He didn’t care for them either, lol). I strung hay twine going both ways, about 20 feet each way, from my outdoor swing, and the leaves got large as dinner plates.  I have contributed to their propagation in this area. I can understand them being a problem in a milder climate but do not see them as a problem here.”

Naomi seems to be managing the air potato effectively on her landscape. For some people, the air potato is invasive and difficult to manage.

Now, homeowners have both points of view and can make an informed decision about the desirability of this plant in a landscape.

Loretta Y. shared this question about pruning, “My [Japanese maple] tree is really scraggly, tall and skinny. I would like to trim some of the limbs to see if it would bush out. When is a good time to trim it?”

Any time the saw is sharp is a good time to prune which is to say any time. AHA prefers to prune during the winter when foliage has dropped. It is easier to see where to make the correct cuts.

Also, the trimmings are lighter to handle and move because the leaves are absent. Careful pruning of the upper canopy can train a tree to spread out. Also, controlling nearby vegetation will enable the tree to grow outward.

A tree with competition will grow up, not out. A tree in an open area will spread outward. Here is another useful tip. Only remove a third of the canopy to avoid killing the tree or shrub.
Loretta also had good results from soil testing and from following the recommendations, “I’ve also found out that by adding iron to the soil, per our test, [the tree] really stays pretty all year. The leaves used to change colors, shrivel up & fall off, but since I use the iron, it’s really pretty.”

Iron is important to plants because it is needed in chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll is needed for photosynthesis, the process that turns light energy in food energy and oxygen. Without iron, plants would be unable to provide us with fruits and vegetables and oxygen.
Shirley C. showed some unusual little fruits to AHA at a Christmas social by Master Gardeners. Shirley found these fruits in a wooded area and wanted to know what they are.

These fruits are called a “smell melons”. Even though they look like small watermelons, they are unpalatable to people.

The flower is fragrant, but the foliage has a smell similar to human body odor. The good news about this plant is its benefit to wildlife.

Also, it is a member of the viney cucumber family.
If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or khawkins@agcenter.lsu.edu. Also, please share the name of your parish.