Myrtle rust, which is caused by the fungus Uredo rangelii, is a disease which affects trees and shrubs in the Myrtaceae family of plants. When severely infected, young plants and new growth may become stunted and in the worst case may die. The Myrtaceae family of plants includes Australian natives like bottle brush (Callistemon spp.), tea tree (Melaleuca spp.) and eucalypts (Eucalyptus spp.).
Myrtle rust is not native to Australia. It is not known how myrtle rust entered Australia. Plant rusts are highly transportable. Their spores can be spread via contaminated clothing, infected plant material, on equipment and by insect/animal movement and wind dispersal. These characteristics make rust diseases extremely difficult to eradicate. At present, there is limited knowledge of the impacts and behaviour of myrtle rust under Australian conditions.
Myrtle rust was first detected in Australia in late April 2010 on the NSW central coast. It was detected in south-east Queensland in December 2010. For further information on the known distribution of myrtle rust within these states, please refer to the websites below:
- New South Wales Department of Primary Industries:
- Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries:
After the outbreak was detected, Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies worked with industry groups and the owners of infected properties in an attempt to suppress the outbreak and eradicate the disease. The emergency response to myrtle rust included:
- removal of host material at infected properties
- establishment of a buffer zone around infected properties and fungicide treatment in these areas
- application of fungicide to continue suppression of the disease
- spore trapping to establish whether the rust was spreading
- quarantine controls on infected properties to prevent further movement of infected plants
- general surveillance
- host range testing.
The eradication effort was unsuccessful - with the disease spreading from commercial properties into native bushland and on to other areas.
In December, the heads of Commonwealth and state agencies responsible for biosecurity took the decision, based on expert technical advice, that it was not technically feasible to eradicate myrtle rust from Australia.
The Department held a national workshop in Canberra on Myrtle Rust in natural ecosystems on 12 December 2012. Representatives from all states and territories as well as the research community were in attendance.
A National Myrtle Rust Coordination Group, including representatives of government, industry and non-government stakeholders, has been established to oversee actions aimed at minimising the impact of myrtle rust on the environment, industry, and the community.
The Group is coordinating ongoing actions to respond to myrtle rust focusing on mitigating its impact on the natural environment, including threatened and endangered species, and on industries that rely on myrtaceous species. Information is being gathered on the host range of myrtle rust under Australian environmental conditions through monitoring and surveillance activities, and laboratory-based testing of a range of important commercial and ecological species of Myrtaceae.
Find out more
More information about Myrtle Rust is provided on the following website:
- National Pests and Diseases Outbreaks
Diseases, fungi & parasites
- Chytrid amphibian fungus – Chytridiomycosis
- Mundulla Yellows
- Myrtle Rust (Uredo rangelii)
- Phytophthora cinnamomi disease
- Psittacine beak and feather disease (psittacine circoviral disease)