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Jamaican Mistflower Fungus Further Invades North

Jamaican Mistflower Fungus Further Invades the North

The Department of Conservation in a joint operation between Regional Councils and Landcare Research has increased the fight against one of Northland’s most widely spread pest plants, the South American mistflower plant.

Mistflower was introduced into New Zealand as an attractive ornamental plant, but has since jumped the garden fence and become one of Northland’s most widely spread pest plants. Luckily, there is good news for the battle against this nasty environmental weed. Early indications have shown that a biocontrol fungus introduced from Jamaica may be a key ingredient in the battle against the aggressive mistflower.

Mistflower particularly likes the warm moist climate of Northland and has invaded many of Northland’s forests and waterways threatening large areas of public conservation land. The Waipoua/Mataraua/Waima forest tract is no exception with huge swards of mistflower forming dense mats and pushing out native plants. Exotic plantations and agricultural land has also been invaded by mistflower and this can threaten production.

The mistflower attacking Jamaican fungus has travelled without human assistance from the release site at Waiotemarama, to Waipoua and Tutamoe. This natural spread of the fungus has very positive indications for the success of controlling mistflower.

Waipoua Conservation Officer Fleur Maseyk said the Jamaican mistflower fungus Entyloma ageratinae was released in 1998. The fungus was released into nine sites around the country in Northland, Auckland and Waikato, but not before rigorous and extensive testing was conducted by Landcare Research on the fungus to ensure its release into the environment did not have any adverse effects on native species.

Ken Massey from Northland Regional Council, who is monitoring the spread of the fungus, reports findings at many locations from coast to coast throughout the region.

The fungus will be followed up by the release of a gallfly that also attacks mistflower. It is hoped that the combination of the fungus and insect will be as effective on the mistflower in Northland as they were in Hawaii where over 52 000 hectares of mistflower was controlled in nine years. The fly is currently still in quarantine in Hawaii where trials are being conducted to ensure that the fly will not have a detrimental effect on species in New Zealand other than mistflower.

The reduction of mistflower populations along the streamsides and riverbanks of Northland will allow opportunity for the return of native species and protection of our unique biodiversity.

Biological control agents are also being investigated for use on other weeds widespread in Northland including banana passionfruit, wild ginger and tobacco weed.
Further information can obtained from Ken Massey at NRC 09 438 4639 or Fleur Maseyk Department of Conservation, Waipoua Forest 09 439 0605.

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