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The mammoth Moturua moth plant bust

Everyone knows moth plant, the rampant climber with pods like chokos, irritating white sap and wind-borne seeds. Its vines can smother trees once it gets hold. Potentially moth plant is the worst weed on the islands of Ipipiri and Project Island Song's weedbusters want to eliminate it.

mothplant-in-bagTo date, moth plant has been found on Motuarohia, Moturua and Urupukapuka Islands. The Urupukapuka sites (in Otehei Bay) are under control, as are those on Motuarohia. In March 2012, the weedbusters thought that the four Moturua sites were also under control: two in Frenchman's Bay, at the far eastern end of Waipao Bay and along the trackline in Waiiti Bay; and two in Mangahawea Bay, one near the northern track and one on the southern track. Little did we know that this would become a major weed-busting operation for Project Island Song, involving:

  • 18 weedbusters
  • 30 person days
  • 7 bags of about 900 pods
  • 500-1000 seeds per pod
  • Potentially 4,725,000 seeds were prevented from blowing around the islands

Thanks to everyone involved – it was a great effort.

Day 1 - March 27th
mothplantThe mammoth Moturua moth plant bust started. Four weedbusters cleared half a black rubbish bag of pods from the plants from the northern Mangahawea Bay site and headed back to the beach for lunch, planning to check the southern site later in the day. Angela (DOC ranger) and Cody (DOC rodent dog) were down at the beach and we asked Ang in passing if she had seen any moth plant while checking traps and tunnels. "Oh yes," she said, "there's a small tree near the track- line that runs along the creek. Just follow the pink tape and you'll find it." We followed the tape and we found it. What wasn't at all obvious from the track-line was that the moth plant wasn't just on one small tree. It was on and under kikuyu and Mexican devil, and climbing on tall mahoe, cabbage trees, brush wattle and tobacco weed etc. along the northern branch of the creek. Going by the thickness of the vines, twining around each other to form tangles as thick as an arm, it had been there for a very long time. None of us had seen anything like it! There were far too many pods for us to take off the island for disposal on the mainland, so we decided to bag them up in black rubbish bags, make holes in the bottom of the bags and leave the pods to rot down on site.

Day 2 & 3 - April 10th & 16th
After another two visits by the weedbusters, three on Day 2, two on Day 3, it was obvious that with such low numbers we were not going to get all of the pods before they opened and the seeds would be spread over Moturua and beyond. We were only half-way through the moth plant colony, which was very demoralising, so we sent an SOS for more people.

Day 4 - June 22nd
Members of the planting team came to help finish the job and the northern branch of the creek was cleared of moth plant. Maggy and Barbara checked the southern track out of the bay at lunch-time and got a few young plants, then did a recce up the southern branch of the creek in the afternoon. Shock! Horror! There was another very large moth plant colony.

Day 5 - July 10th
Another team arrived to deal with the southern creek and we finally got the whole site cleared.

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