Vine threatens grazing land

MADEIRA vine is native to South America but is making itself at home in Queensland's south-east.

An assessment of the potential distribution of this tree-smothering vine shows that it would thrive in the climate of the coastal strip from south of Brisbane to Rockhampton and potentially further inland and as far north as Cape York.

Fraser Coast Regional Council's coordinator of vector and pest management, Col Zemek said that so far council had only had to treat very small areas of Madeira vine on Fraser Island and the mainland.

"All the plants we have treated have been on town blocks and a small area on Fraser Island," he said.

"Madeira vine poses a significant threat to bushland and grazing country in the Wide Bay and has become a real problem in the Maleny area and further south.

"This is a weed we really don't want to have in the Wide Bay landscape."

Madeira vine (Anredera cordifolia), like cat's claw creeper, grows up and over trees and shrubs, smothering them and eventually causing them to collapse.

This highly invasive plant is a garden escapee and is widespread and common in the summer rainfall coastal areas of NSW.

The vine is declared as a Class 3 species under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002.

As such the law prohibits sale or supply of this plant and may require it to be removed from environmentally sensitive areas.

Madeira vine has been nominated for consideration as a Weed of National Significance, to recognise the threat it poses.

In 2007 Madeira vine was approved as a target for biological control and scientists identified a leaf beetle from South America, Plectonycha correntina, as an effective biological control agent.

After undertaking host-specificity testing on 37 closely related plant species they found that the beetle could only complete its life cycle on the Madeira vine.

The first releases occurred in May this year and other releases have since occurred in infestations in the greater Brisbane area.

Biosecurity Queensland general manager for invasive plants and animals, Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith, said collaborative efforts involving the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) and overseas authorities, with funding from local councils and the NSW and Queensland governments, had resulted in the discovery, collection, quarantine assessment and release of the South American beetle.

"The beetle feeds on Madeira vine leaves. It is expected it will defoliate the vine, which means the vine will be less competitive against other plants," Dr Vivian-Smith said.

Biosecurity Queensland are pleased with the results so far having observed severe damage to leaves on Madeira vines and egg batches being laid.

The beetles will be released in batches of 100-500 in areas infested with Madeira vine. Landholders are asked to notify their local council of any Madeira plants on private or public lands. Councils will coordinate the release of the beetles in association with Biosecurity Queensland.

The Madeira vine has distinct wide, fleshy, light green heart-shaped leaves about 4-5 cm long. It produces a dense blanket of creamy flower spikes resembling lamb tails, from December to April. The vine produces thousands of small light-brown or green 'tubers' along the stem. These tubers fall to the ground and sprout, making it easy for this weed to quickly become established. Madeira vine is sometimes called potato vine or lambs tail vine.

Report sightings of Madeira vine to DEEDI's Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23 or your Regional Council.

Get your Wide Bay Rural Weekly in Thursday's NewsMail.

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