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Biocontrol introduction

Target pest: Clematis vitalba (Ranunculales: Ranunculaceae), old man's beard

Agent introduced: Longididymella clematidis (Pleosporales: Didymellaceae) = Didymella clematidis, old man's beard leaf fungus



Import source:


Import notes:

Gourlay (2008) - a selected strain of this fungus was introduced from USA as a biocontrol agent [as Phoma clematidina,subsequently reclassified as Didymella clematidis and then Longididymella clematidis - see Woudenberg et al. (2009) and Hou et al. (2020) in 'General comments' section]. Other less virulent strains were already present in the country.



Release details:

Gourlay (2008) - first releases were in summer of 1996; widespread releases began in spring 1997.


It established readily and quickly became widespread throughout the country.

Gourlay (2008) - no evidence the deliberately released strain is still present in New Zealand.

Landcare Research (2021b) - did not persist and is believed to have been outcompeted by native fungi.

Impacts on target:

Gourlay (2008) - initially caused considerable damage, but has since become rare and has probably died out. Minor damage caused by the less virulent strains is commonly seen.

Landcare Research (2016d) - it is possible that the released strain was outcompeted by other fungi on old man's beard, some of which studies have shown occur as symptomless endophytes that may confer disease resistance to the plant.

General comments:

Woudenberg et al. (2009) - multiple taxa are present within the morphological variation understood to represent Phoma clematidina. A study to assess the diversity of P. clematidina by means of DNA sequence comparisons showed three distinct groups which are elevated to species level. One of these is described as Didymella clematidis. Due to the presence of only two-celled conidia both in vitro and in vivo, the anamorph [asexual] stage of D. clematidis (previously considered to be Phoma clematidina) is classified in the genus Ascochyta. This species has been released in New Zealand as a biological control agent of Clematis vitalba.

Hou et al. (2020) - Didymella clematidis is shown to be part of a fully supported clade that is distant from Didymella and distinct from other known genera in family Didymellaceae and is consequently reclassified in a newly introduced genus as Longididymella clematidis.


Gourlay H (2008). Old Man's Beard Leaf Fungus. In The Biological Control of weeds Book (Landcare Research) https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/discover-our-research/biosecurity/weed-management/using-biocontrol/the-biological-control-of-weeds-book/

Hou LW, Groenewald JZ, Pfenning LH, Yarden O, Crous PW, Cai L (2020). The phoma-like dilemma. Studies in Mycology 96: 309-396 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.simyco.2020.05.001

Landcare Research (2016d). What's happening with old man's beard? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 76: 4-5 http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/biological-control-of-weeds/issue-76

Landcare Research (2021b). Old man's beard agents show promise. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 95, Feb 2021 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/old-mans-beard-agents-show-promise

Woudenberg JHC, Aveskamp MM, de Gruyter J, Spiers AG, Crous PW (2009). Multiple Didymella teleomorphs are linked to the Phoma clematidina morphotype. Persoonia - Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution of Fungi 22: 56-62