26 September 2023

Kimberley Paperbark tree rusting for myrtle

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Myrtle rust

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has confirmed that a Paperbark tree in a wetland on a remote pastoral lease in the East Kimberley has been found to have the invasive fungal disease ‘myrtle rust’.

Joining a target surveillance to determine the extent of the outbreak, DPIRD is working with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

According to DPIRD’s Chief Plant Protection Officer, Sonya Broughton, myrtle rust is a highly invasive disease of Myrtaceae plants which included peppermint trees, Geraldton wax, eucalypts, melaleucas, bottlebrushes and lilly pilly.

“Myrtle rust attacks both young plants and new growth on established plants from the Myrtaceae family,” Dr Broughton said.

“Signs of the disease include masses of bright yellow or orange-yellow spores on plant foliage, lesions on actively growing foliage, floral buds and young fruit and buckled or twisted leaves,” she said.

“For bottlebrush plant species, the rust lesions will be purple in colour and spores dark brown.”

Dr Broughton said myrtle rust was widespread along the east coast of Australia from southern New South Wales to far north Queensland and into the Northern Territory.

“It is important for anyone living in or travelling through the Kimberley to report any suspected signs of the disease to DPIRD as soon as possible,” she said.

“The disease is spread mostly via wind, but the spores can also be spread via infected plant material, contaminated equipment, clothing and vehicles.

“People who see any unusual symptoms on plants should not touch the plant or collect samples,” she said.

Dr Broughton advised people who think they might have seen an infected plant to take photos of it and report to DPIRD through the Pest and Disease Information Service on 9368 3080, email ‘[email protected]’, or use the Department’s MyPestGuide™ Reporter app available from the Google or Apple app stores

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