Myrtle rust disease discovered in New Zealand

12 May 2017

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed the presence of the myrtle rust plant disease on mainland New Zealand for the first time, in Kerikeri.

MPI, councils, the Department of Conservation, industry and iwi are all working together to contain the disease.

What is myrtle rust?

Myrtle rust is a fungal infection that can travel long distances in the wind and attacks plants of the myrtaceae family. It could affect iconic New Zealand plants like pohutukawa, kanuka, manuka and rata, as well as commercially-grown species such as eucalyptus, guava and feijoa.

What to look out for

Although myrtle rust doesn’t affect kiwifruit vines this is an important and timely reminder for all growers to look out for symptoms on their native myrtaceae trees. Look for:

• bright yellow powdery eruptions appearing on the underside of the leaf (young infection)
• bright yellow powdery eruptions on both sides of the leaf (mature infection)
• brown/grey rust pustules (older spores) can appear on older lesions
• leaves may become buckled or twisted and die off.

If you see any of these symptoms call the MPI exotic pests and dieases hotline on 0800 80 99 66. Take a photo but don't attempt to touch or collect samples as this may increase spread of the disease.

A myrtle rust fact sheet is available on the MPI website and there is also a lot of guidance available on the New Zealand Plant Producers site including a complete list of all native and exotic myrtle family plants in New Zealand.

*Home page photo credit Forest & Kim Starr