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Jamaican Mistflower fungus invades the north

Early indications are showing that an introduced Jamaican fungus may be a key ingredient in the battle against the nasty and widespread environmental weed Mistflower.

The South American garden escapee Mistflower is Northland’s most widely spread pest plant and along with the related Mexican devil threatens large areas of public conservation land.

The weed forms dense mats over large areas, especially streamsides, cliff faces, native and exotic forests and agricultural land and grows particularly well in the warm Northland conditions.

Kerikeri conservation officer Claire Woolridgeway said the Jamaican Mistflower fungus Entyloma agaeratinae was released in 1998 in a joint operation between Regional Councils, Landcare Research and the Department of Conservation.

Rigorous testing was done on the fungus to ensure its release into the environment did not have any adverse effects on native species.

The fungus will be followed up by the release of a fly and a beetle which will further attack the weakened plant pests. These insects are still in quarantine under going trials to ensure that they will not affect any other species.

The combination of all three species (fungus and insects) has been found to be effective in the battle against Mistflower in Hawaii, where over 20,000 hectares of the plant pest.

The Mistflower battling fungus was released into nine sites around the country including Northland, Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

In Auckland region the fungus has been found to spread up to 8 kilometers from the release sites, while in Northland DoC staff from Kerikeri Area office recently found the fungus on Mistflower plants up to 25 kilometers from the nearest release site in south Puketi.

It is hoped that a decline in the infestations of Mistflower population will lead to the revival of more desired species throughout the region.

Biological control agents are also being investigated for use on other Northland weeds including banana passionfruit, wild ginger and tobacco weed.
For more information please contact Claire Woolridgeway on (09) 407 8474

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