Biosecurity Queensland is urging North Queensland residents to be on the lookout for myrtle rust, a serious plant disease, after it was found in nurseries in Cairns and Townsville.
Biosecurity Queensland Director (Myrtle rust) Mike Ashton said this was only the second time myrtle rust had been found outside of South East Queensland since it was first detected in Brisbane in December last year.
“This is the second time myrtle rust has been found in Cairns and the first detection of the disease in Townsville,” Mr Ashton said.
“The infected plants have been removed from sale and other susceptible plants are now being inspected for signs of the disease.
“Tracing so far has found the infected plants at both nurseries had been sent from a Townsville nursery.
“Further surveillance and tracing will be conducted to determine whether the disease has spread outside of the nurseries and any other potentially infected consignments sent from the original nursery.
“Our priority now is to work with these and other potentially infected nurseries to make sure they know how to identify the disease in the future and what to do if they find it.”
Mr Ashton said its disappointing myrtle rust had been found so far outside of South East Queensland but knowing where it is helps scientists to understand more about the disease.
“We know myrtle rust cannot be contained or eradicated but the more we know about the disease the more we can learn about how to manage it and its potential impacts,” he said.
“We need residents and businesses to learn what myrtle rust looks like and let us know if they think they find it.
“I encourage everyone to visit the Biosecurity Queensland website where you can find photos and advice on what to do to manage myrtle rust in different situations.”
Myrtle rust can cause deformation of leaves, heavy defoliation of branches, dieback, stunted growth and plant death. There is no known direct threat to humans or animals.
The first signs of myrtle rust are tiny raised purple spots or pustules on new leaves. After a few days, the pustules erupt into distinctive, fluffy-looking egg-yolk yellow spores.
Myrtle rust infects myrtaceous plants including many Australian native plants commonly found in gardens such as paperbarks, lilly pillies, bottlebrush and tea trees.
“We first detected myrtle rust in Queensland in December 2010 and it has since been found at plant nurseries, council parks, schools, in backyards and national parks.
“We advise everyone to be on the lookout for myrtle rust in their own gardens and other natural areas including bushland and parks.”