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.