Myrtle rust on Eugenia reinwardtiana.
Myrtle rust on Eugenia reinwardtiana. Contributed

Wet July raises risk of disease

IF I would have told you at the beginning of the year that we would have had more than 100mm of rain during July, you would have said I was dreaming.

But July was the wettest in 39 years, with the monthly rainfall four times greater than average.

Rockhampton gardeners also had to contend with the coldest July day on record, with the temperature only reaching 21.1 degrees on Saturday, July 14.

The July weather has also increased the risk of myrtle rust to gardens in the Rockhampton region.

This is a worry for many garden enthusiasts as myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease caused by Uredo rangelii that affects plants in the Myrtaceae family.

Myrtle rust has spread rapidly across Queensland and we have had several cases of myrtle rust in the local area. Every gardener across the region does need to be vigilant.

Locally the shrub that is of greatest risk is the Eugenia reinwardtiana or beach cherry.

This shrub has proven to be one of the most fire retardant plants for Rockhampton gardens but it may not survive the myrtle rust.

The beach cherry is a bushy shrub for moist well-drained situations in sun or part shade.

White flowers are produced in spring, followed by tasty orange berries ripe about Christmas time.

The first signs of rust infection are tiny raised spots or pustules.

After a few days, the pustules turn a distinctive egg-yolk yellow.

Left untreated, the disease can cause deformation of leaves, heavy defoliation of branches, dieback, stunted growth and even plant death.

Very small spores spread myrtle rust, and these spores are carried mostly by wind.

But the disease can also spread through the movement of infected or contaminated plant material, such as seeds and plants.

Even animals like bats, birds and bees that have been in contact with rust spores could spread this disease.

This rust can even be spread from contaminated timber and wood packaging, freight containers and even clothing, shoes, equipment and other personal effects.

It is important that you report any possible detections of myrtle rust, even if this disease has not been reported in Central Queensland.

This will provide critical information about the spread of the disease in Queensland.

Do not move or dispose of plants that you think may be infected with myrtle rust, especially DO NOT TAKE ANY SAMPLES TO YOUR LOCAL NURSERY, just call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.


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