Wellington Scoop

Heavily infected: myrtle rust fungal disease found in Lower Hutt garden

News from MPI
The fungal plant disease myrtle rust has been found in Lower Hutt.

The Ministry for Primary Industries laboratory late yesterday confirmed positive infection in three ramarama (Lophmyrtus bullata) plants in a Hutt Valley garden.

The two metre high plants are in a row and are heavily infected says the myrtle rust response Incident Controller Catherine Duthie.

Myrtle rust is a fungus that attacks and can potentially seriously affect myrtle species plants including natives such as pohutukawa, ramarama, manuka and rata.

“This new find, significantly further south of other known infection in the upper North Island, is very disappointing,” Dr Duthie says.

As with other positive finds, the trees are having their foliage sealed to prevent spore drift and are then being removed and deep buried.

“All efforts to date have been to contain infection where it is found. However we have been planning for the possibility that it turns out to be widespread and are realistic that it won’t be feasible to keep removing all infected trees found long term.

“This new find will see us review our tactics and could signal a move to a longer term approach to managing it in partnership with others including local authorities, iwi and hapu, plant production industry and interested individuals and groups.

“We’ll be keeping people informed about any decisions and will provide the most up to date information about best practice in fighting this disease,” Dr Duthie says.

In the meantime, MPI encourages everyone to keep an eye out for the disease in myrtle species.

“So far ramarama and pohutukawa are the species we’re finding most affected and these are the ones to look at carefully.

“If you think you’ve seen the distinctive yellow fungus, don’t touch the plant or the rust, as this may spread it. If possible get a good photo of the plant and the yellow patches, and contact MPI on 0800 80 99 66.”


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