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NJDA War On Wild Loosestrife Yielding Positive Results
For Immediate Release: August 9, 2001 Contact:

Hope Gruzlovic

Wild purple loosestrife, an aggressive, invasive, fast-spreading purple-flowered plant, is rapidly becoming a real threat to New Jersey's native flora and fauna. With its "mine-all-mine" attitude, this pest plant thrives in fresh water wetlands and overwhelms 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 Garden State.

Loosestrife is a native to Europe, but can now be found in all of the lower 48 states except Florida. Because of its foreign origin, there are no natural predators in this country that will feed on it and help prevent its spread. A mature plant can produce over two million seeds and can easily eliminate native vegetation required by wildlife for food, shelter and nesting. NJDA's Philip Alampi Beneficial Insect Laboratory (PABIL) in Ewing, Mercer County, began the search for a purple loosestrife predator in 1997 at the request of NJDEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife and Endangered and Non-Game Species Program. DEP was looking for a way to control the tough, resilient invader on state-owned lands where chemical controls were impractical or unsuitable. The continued existence of many native plants and animals, including such endangered species as the bog turtle, was literally at stake because they depend on a diversified plant environment for suitable habitat or food supply. The first order of business was for NJDA's Division of Plant Industry to establish a colony of loosestrife predators at PABIL. 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 would no longer threaten native plant and animal species inhabiting treated wetlands. Results have been promising. Over one million of the predators of choice, the leaf-eating beetles Galerucella pusilla and Galerucella calmariensis, have been released at 60 sites in 13 counties** since the program began. This year, NJDA scouts successfully recovered beetles from 80 percent of the release sites and native vegetation is beginning to reclaim infested wetlands where loosestrife has been killed. NJDA continues to work with DEP and others, releasing the beetles in a number of bog turtle sites and other areas infested with loosestrife. For additional information about NJDA's biocontrol programs, contact Robert Chianese (robert.chianese@ag.state.nj.us), 609-530-4192, or visit the department's web site.

** Some accessible areas include the northern end of Paulinskill Lake off of Parsons Road in Hampton Twp., Sussex Co.; the Walkill River Natural Area off Rt. 517 on Scudder Road in Ogdensburg Borough, Sussex Co.; D.O.D. Ponds off Rte. 130 in Oldmans Twp., north of Penns Grove, Salem Co.; Mercer County Park off Hughes Drive in Hamilton Square.