We have begun with Lantana because it has a history of having been controlled by fungal pathogens in several countries, with much research having identified several fungal agents that attack different varieties of the species. Many of these are so specific as to attack only a single variety. This high specificity is important in Galapagos, where we have an endemic Lantana, L. peduncularis. However, CABI scientists have already identified a fungus that attacks the variety of L. camara which we have in Galapagos but does not appear to attack our endemic species. The pictures to the right show levels of infection of Puccinia lantanae as a result of different periods of exposure to moisture: A. eight hours, B. fourteen hours, and C. twenty hours in the dew chamber.
The next step is to carry out more specificity testing with these species, and with related species in the same family (Verbenaceae) and other endemics, so as to be sure that the fungus will not attack any of them. This work is being undertaken by research student Jorge Luís Rentería. For safety reasons, the experiments are done by sending our plants to Britain, rather than bringing the fungus to Galapagos. We are still at least two years away from testing on the islands, and before we even consider that, we have to be convinced that the project will not pose any danger to the native flora of Galapagos.
Source: Charles Darwin Foundation.