Myrtle Rust (Uredo rangelii) is an introduced fungus that was first detected in Australia in April 2010. In twelve months, it has evaded significant control efforts and now affects many areas on the East coast.
Bushwalkers can play a major role in controlling the spread of this disease. This article explains how you can help reduce the impact of Myrtle Rust, by avoiding known infestations, identifying affected plants and using simple Leave No Trace walking techniques.
Bio security alert - Myrtle Rust
Myrtle Rust (Uredo rangelii) is a South American fungus that was first detected in Australia in April 2010. This tiny pest is so voracious that, in twelve months, it has become "probably the biggest threat to Australia's ecosystem", according to John McDonald of the Nursery & Garden Industry Australia. .
Myrtle Rust can cause a very serious disease in Australian native plants in the Myrtaceae family - This includes plants like bottle brushes, tea trees and eucalypts. The fungus causes the plants’ leaves to deform and it may kill the plant, especially young saplings. Because the disease is newly discovered, the full extent of the disease is yet to be understood.
Despite major efforts to contain this disease, Myrtle Rust has spread from the NSW Central Coast, and has now been identified over the Queensland border. This fungus has the potential to decimate not only the Australian bushland, but also significantly impact the cut flower, forestry and garden industries.
Bushwalkers have a major role in controlling the spread
Stay out of quarantined areas
The Great North Walk has already changed route to quarantine an infected area. There are other areas that have been infested, please take all quarantine signs seriously. Signs are in place, and Wildwalks tracknotes are updated as soon as we are aware of changes. Just one walker can spread this disease over large areas.
Be familiar with the signs
The disease creates a distinct powdery bright yellow (sometime orangey-yellow) spores on the leaves, stems, flowers and/or fruits. Later, purple or dark brown lesions remain on the plant. Keep watch for signs in your own garden and local area.
Do not touch affected plants
If you suspect you found an infected plant please take a photo and make a note of the location, then contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline: 1800 084 881.
Clean your clothes well
If there is any chance you have been near the disease - change into fresh clothes and wash your hands, face and footwear to prevent spread. Clean your shoes with a 70% methylated spirits or benzyl alkonium chloride disinfectant.
After any bushwalk, it is good practice to always clean your clothes, shoes and equipment (included tent pegs) to prevent the spread of a wide range of diseases and weeds.
You can learn more about Myrtle Rust by visiting http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/plant/myrtle-rust
Another introduced fungus that has caused widespread damage is Phytophthora cinnamomi. The disease it causes, Phytophthora Dieback, is less distinctive but rapidly fatal to plants.
Phytophthora Dieback has affected as much as 60-80% % of the Stirling Range National Park in WA, and is estimated to cost the Australian economy around $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.
In NSW, the mostly natably affected plants have been Angophoras, several species of Eucalypts, and grass trees (Xanthorrhoea Media). The Harbour trust has more information on Phytophthora dieback.
Its natural spread is quite slow, however human intervention has sped this up by moving soil, plants and cuttings; dumping waste in bushland; off-road vehicles in bushland and maintenance of roads and firebreaks.
Bushwalkers and bush regenerators are urged to be mindful of their impact:
- remove all dirt from shoes before and after your time in the bush
- disinfect shoes with household disinfectant
- keep to tracks and ideally avoid bushland when the ground is wet
- don’t disturb the bushland (soil, plant, rocks or fauna)