A two-day event called "Melapaleuza," co-hosted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), is being held in Florida this week as part of the continuing effort to control melaleuca, an invasive species that has infested about 500,000 acres in South Florida.
The ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory (IPRL) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will help host the first Melapaleuza event beginning today in Fort Myers, Fla., to demonstrate the agency's "TAME Melaleuca" program for managing this invasive species.
ARS initiated The Areawide Management and Evaluation (TAME) Melaleuca Project in 2001 to help control the spread of Melaleuca quinquenervia, a fast-growing Australian tree that has quickly invaded the Everglades region, displacing native vegetation and creating major fire hazards.
TAME takes an areawide approach to managing this resilient weed on public and private lands. Paul D. Pratt, an entomologist at the IPRL, directs the project, while entomologist Cressida Silvers serves as its coordinator.
The purpose of TAME is to show the effective integration of biological control methods with other management strategies to achieve long-term results. So far, nearly 300,000 melaleuca leaf weevils, Oxyops vitiosa, and 711,000 of the aphidlike melaleuca psyllid, Boreioglycaspis melaleucae, have been released in South Florida at 150 locations. These natural controls were discovered in Australia by scientists in the Australian Biological Control Laboratory in Indooroopilly and were tested extensively by ARS scientists to be certain they would not infest other valuable plants in the area.
Melapaleuza is a two-day event, with the first day reserved for horticultural and landscape professionals, along with arborists and land, resource and vegetation managers. On the first day, the program will include expert talks on melaleuca management and other activities. The second day's events, tailored to the homeowner and open to the general public, will demonstrate small-scale melaleuca management options.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.