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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fort Lauderdale, Florida » Invasive Plant Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #353503

Research Project: Identification, Evaluation, and Implementation of Biological Control Agents for Invasive Weeds of Southeastern Ecosystems

Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory

Title: Is biological control for earleaf acacia (Acacia auriculiformis) Feasible in the United States?

item MINTEER, CAREY - University Of Florida
item Smith, Melissa
item Madeira, Paul
item GOOSEM, CHRISTINE - Australian Biological Control Laboratory, ARS
item ZONNEVALD, RYAN - Australian Biological Control Laboratory, ARS
item MAKINSON, JEFF - Australian Biological Control Laboratory, ARS
item Wheeler, Gregory
item PURCELL, MATTHEW - Australian Biological Control Laboratory, ARS

Submitted to: Biocontrol Science and Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/3/2020
Publication Date: 10/21/2020
Citation: Minteer, C., Smith, M., Madeira, P.T., Goosem, C., Zonnevald, R., Makinson, J., Wheeler, G.S., Purcell, M. 2020. Is biological control for earleaf acacia (Acacia auriculiformis) Feasible in the United States? Biocontrol Science and Technology. 30(12):1275-1299.

Interpretive Summary: Earleaf acacia (Acacia auriculiformis) is increasingly prevalent and pervasive in Florida upland and wetland communities. Herein, we discuss the feasibility of launching a biological control program for this species. Though the Fabaceae is a large and frequently nebulous plant group, Acacia auriculiformis should be pursued as a target of classical weed biological control; it is not closely related to native North American species and successful biological control has already been developed for congeners in South Africa.

Technical Abstract: Earleaf acacia (Acacia auriculiformis A.Cunn. ex Benth) is a fast-growing, evergreen tree from Australia that was purposefully introduced into the United States as an ornamental at the turn of the 20th century. The first note of the potential weedy or invasive nature of this species was in 1976. Since that time, earleaf acacia has become more prevalent and more of an issue in Florida and is now listed as a Category I plant on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's 2017 List of Invasive Species. A review of the literature on earleaf acacia and a phylogenetic analysis of confamilials were conducted to determine the feasibility of developing a biological control program for this invasive weed. Emphasis was placed on obtaining the native Mimosoideae taxa for the phylogenetic analysis as they are the most closely related to earleaf acacia, and therefore potentially the most vulnerable to attack from biological control agents. Exploration for potential natural enemies was conducted in the native range. Little to no potential conflicts of interests for control of earleaf acacia were found. This, paired with the high risk assessment for invasive potential and the lack of long-term control options outside of chemical basal bark and "cut and spray" treatments, makes earleaf acacia an agreeable candidate for biological control. Ten arthropod species feeding on earleaf acacia in the native range have been found. Several of those arthropods have the potential to be host specific and damaging.