fast, invasive, aggressive and purple and threatening
New Jersey's native flora and fauna with its "mine-all-mine" attitude?
It's wild purple loosestrife, a pest plant that thrives
in fresh water wetlands and is rapidly overwhelming
indigenous plant species around the state, creating
an unwelcoming monoculture. But NJDA may have found
a bio-weapon that will help loosen the pest plant's
stranglehold on sensitive wetland habitats in the
loosestrife is a native to Europe, there are no natural
predators in this country that will feed on it and
help prevent its spread. However, in more than 15
states since 1992, both federal and state government
agencies and select universities have released a
species of leaf-eating beetle imported from Europe
that feeds specifically on purple loosestrife.
was to this predator that NJDA turned in 1997 when
NJDEP's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife and Endangered
and Non-Game Species Program asked for help in controlling
the tough, resilient invader on state-owned lands
where chemical controls were impractical or unsuitable.
The existence of many native plants and animals,
including such endangered species as the bog turtle,
were at issue because they depend on a diversified
plant environment for suitable habitat or food supply.
first order of business was for NJDA's Division of
Plant Industry to establish a colony of loosestrife
predators in the department's Phillip Alampi Beneficial
Insect Laboratory in Ewing. By raising and releasing
the leaf-eating beetles, NJDA hoped to stop the spread
of the weed and reduce the weed population to a level
that no longer threatens native plant and animal
species inhabiting treated wetlands. By the fall
of 1998 NJDA had raised and released over 270,000
adult beetles in central and northern areas of the
year's spring surveys of previous release sites showed
that the beetles survived another winter. For the
first time, the predators are causing significant
leaf damage to the invasive wetland weed where the
NJDA/DEP pilot project is under way. As a result,
NJDA has expanded the loosestrife biological control
program to include several privately-owned loosestrife-infested
Jersey is not alone in its war on purple loosestrife.
The plant can be found in all of the continental
United States except Florida.
additional information about NJDA's biocontrol programs,
contact: Robert Chianese (email@example.com),
609-530-4194, or visit the department's web site.