This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Moth Control of Climbing Fern Weed Launched

The predator moth

Scientists with the United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and officials from the State of Florida have released moths of the species Austromusotima camptonozale, the first biological control agent approved for release against the invasive climbing fern, Lygodium microphyllum. This aggressive scrambling weed has spread across south and central Florida, scaling the stems or trunks of other plants to form thick vegetative blankets. On the ground, it creates tough, spongy mats that smother grasses, low-growing shrubs and small trees.

"Land managers consider this fern to be the state's worst invasive species, so we hope the moth will begin to offer much-needed relief," said ARS entomologist Robert Pemberton of the Invasive Plant Research at Fort Lauderdale. He leads the international research effort to develop biological controls for the weed. Climbing fern is native to the Old World tropics including Australia, Africa, tropical Asia and the Pacific Islands but does not cause problems in those areas, probably because natural enemies help keep it in check. Searching for natural enemies of the fern in its native habitat, scientists at the Australian Biological Control Laboratory, Indooroopilly, Queensland, identified several promising candidates, including A.camptonozale. Then they tested these bio-control candidates to make sure they would only feed on the fern and not on other, non-target plants.

The moth measures little more than a centimetre from wing-tip to wing-tip and is bright-white, with spots and stripes on its wings. The larvae of the moth feed on climbing fern's leaves, damaging the vines. The Indooroopilly scientists shipped a supply of moths to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's biological control quarantine facility in Gainesville for three years of testing. Herbicides have been the major weapon against climbing fern, but the weed thrives in remote wetland areas that are difficult to treat A.camptonozale and other bio-control organisms may provide an effective and more environmentally friendly alternative to the use of herbicides in wetlands.

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