Seed Swaps

Oh No

01 Mar 2012
Cloudy 35°C / 95°F

I must be the last gardener in Australia to have heard about Myrtle Rust (uredo rangelii). When I saw rust on the Cedar Bay Cherry/Beach Cherry ( Eugenia Reinwardtiana) last week, I vaguely noted that it was the first time I had seen rust on any Eugenia/Syzigium, put it down to the very wet weather and the extra shade provided by the neighbour’s rapidly growing Viburnum, snipped off the badly infested leaves for disposal and thought no more about it.

It was only a few days later when I was doing a bit of reading online that I saw a photo that stopped me dead. It has been in the country since its discovery at a NSW nursery in late April of 2010, it has now spread even to Victoria.

The fungus attacks new growth, maiming older plants and killing the youngest. There is no cure. Any plant affected will always have it, waiting for the perfect conditions to reemerge. Beach Cherry is listed as very susceptible so I may as well bin the plant which I have been growing in a pot for over 10 years. It was going to be planted now that the adjacent concreting is finished. Oh, and the new one I was going to plant next to it to assist pollination may as well go too since the few fungicides that can even keep the rust at bay are highly toxic and have withholding periods longer than the fruiting season.

This fungus will probably be a disaster for Australia where an estimated 70-80 per cent of Australian native trees are mytracea, including the iconic Eucalyptus. It is already a disaster for me. Control measures are pitifully ineffective, so several of my plants are at risk including two 15 year old Jaboticabas, including too the Lillypilly. I feel violated.


1) Myrtle Rust on Beach Cherry
2) Underside of leaf. The edges of the leaf are starting to curl and will eventually ball up into a withered mess.



I feel your pain. I remember my Dad being devastated when he lost all of his elms (to Dutch Elm disease), but this sounds like it may be way, way worse on the macro-level. What plans/actions (if any) are being taken by the “authorities” to stop the spread/control it – if it’s possible? (And what will the koalas eat if there are no eucalpytus left? I had the impression that’s all they eat…)

Sorry that I’m not expressing myself better but hope you understand my heart-speak. I’m giving your post a “thumbs-up” too – don’t normally when there’s bad news – in the hope that this helps a teeny bit towards your post going “viral” (unfortunate expression) on Folia. This is serious.

Posted on 01 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Oh no indeed. So sorry!

Posted on 01 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Too bad, horrible to have this sort of fungus attack such a wide range of trees.

Posted on 01 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Oh no, Louise M, I hadn’t even thought of the koalas. And yes, I do hear heart speak. I was so focused on what I know around me. Koalas, no, no., that is too horrible to imagine. No one has mentioned them. This is all so new and awful.

What is worse the authorities have given up. It is no longer a notifiable disease as of three months ago. Where was I? So hard to hear about it when it is all over, bar the music. We gave up so soon. I just want to weep.

Posted on 02 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Oh no! That is terrible news.

Posted on 02 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

That’s awful!!!
The eastern United States lost almost all of its chestnut trees starting in 1904 due to an introduced fungus. Chestnuts were a significant food source for wildlife and native peoples, but fortunately not an exclusive one for any animal species as far as I know. Breeders are just starting to release resistant trees now. My area is currently suffering from a fungus that’s attacking plants in the Lauraceae family and is likely to cause the extinction of some species. I hate fast-acting introduced plant pathogens!!!

Posted on 03 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Redloon, Laurel Wilt Disease seems poorly named when it is showing 92% mortality of infected trees. Not quite the picture I have of a ‘wilt’. What a dreadful disease. We humans move so fast that the rate of our nasty introductions seem to be speeding up too.

Thank you for the first link, I had no idea that chestnuts might once again be able to survive in the US. That at least was a bit of good news :)

Posted on 04 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

LIllyPilly I am so sorry to hear! The Northeast United States lost Chestnuts, as redloon states, but it also lost Elms by the devastating numbers nearly wiping all out completely. Nature always has a plan – even if it seems like a slow tornado. I am wishing your special need plants all the best!

Posted on 06 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Thanks all, I’m a bit calmer now, though not any happier about this. If it ever stops raining I will start on a preventative campaign for all the Myrtaceae in the yard. Lots of TLC to make sure that are all as healthy and able to fight off disease as possible. Maybe a bit of spraying with seaweed, reputed to strengthen the cell walls?

Posted on 07 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

I can’t rember where I read it, but im sure i heard that the rust isnt as bad as feared.
dont get me wrong it will have an impact but ecological collapse is not likely.

“What plans/actions (if any) are being taken by the “authorities” to stop the spread/control it”
Monitor and prevention of human spread; its a Rust and therefore spreads by spores, so there is essentully nothing that can be done.

“what will the koalas eat if there are no eucalpytus left”
It wont kill off all gum trees in an area but it may reduce food sources (ie: new growth). koalas tend to have large territories. I dont think it infects all trees at the same time, as the flu would infect a human population, individuales over time, with some recovering while others and infected.
For the most part everyone is just waiting and seeing what happens.

…Thats how i understand it anyway

PS: guess where it may of come from? IMPORTED eucaliptus timer… why were we even importing it? we have ample!

Posted on 08 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

here is an article by the CSIRO

“There is some hopeful news. In about two-thirds of the 118 taxa tested by CSIRO, only some individuals became infected.

‘This suggests that there could be some level of resistance present in many species,’ says Dr Morin."

Posted on 08 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)
It sounds like it is going to ne more than a little challenging for koalas. They are already having a rough time of it in QLD where something like 80-90% are infected with chlamydia.

I’ve decided to scrap the idea of planting either of the two Beach Cherries ( Eugenia reinwardtiana) as they are listed as extremely susceptible. Midyim are known to be highly susceptible and I have three of them. Scrap too the silky myrtle on my shopping list, it also is rated as highly susceptible. .
This more recent story sounds pretty bleak too

Posted on 10 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

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