Skip links and keyboard navigation

Myrtle Rust

What is myrtle rust?

Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease, caused by Uredo rangelii or Puccinia psidii, which belongs to the eucalyptus or guava rust complex of rust fungi. It requires a living host and affects plants in the Myrtaceae family. Producing large numbers of spores, myrtle rust is easily spread by wind, human activity and animals.

The disease is native to South America but was first detected in New South Wales in April 2010. By December, it was present in some areas of Queensland. Myrtle rust is now established in Far North Queensland with significant detections in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

While the fungus and the spores are believed to be non-toxic to wildlife, it is likely to make foliage and fruits less palatable as well as affecting their nutritional values.

Myrtle rust poses no known threat to humans. However, visitors to national parks can help reduce its spread.

How will myrtle rust be managed?

The Myrtle Rust National Management Group has concluded that it is not possible to eradicate myrtle rust from Australia.

Biosecurity Queensland is leading the Queensland Government’s response to the disease and is working with industry to restrict trade of infected plants in Queensland; track its distribution and range of host species; and inform the community on measures to minimise the impact of the disease.

The Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing's Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) is represented on the Queensland Myrtle Rust Control Group and is committed to preventing the avoidable spread of this disease.

The department's role in the long-term approach will include:

  • training staff in identification
  • implementing practical hygiene practices to minimise avoidable spread
  • identifying and protecting strategic areas of the department's estate where control is practicable
  • promoting awareness to estate users
  • tracking geographical spread
  • identifying and recording host species
  • undertaking modelling to assess potential impact of myrtle rust on koala habitat
  • developing long-term monitoring programs to assess impact on native forests.

Affected species

The Myrtaceae family of plants dominate most Australian forests and woodlands, and are the second largest plant family in Queensland with 601 native species. This family includes eucalypts, bloodwoods, bottlebrushes, paperparks, tea trees, lilly pillies and water gums.

Information is being gathered on myrtle rust’s host species range and disease distribution in Queensland environmental conditions. Laboratory host testing of a range of important commercial and ecological Australian species is also being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and other research agencies.

View the full list of known plants affected by myrtle rust.

Recognising myrtle rust

Myrtle rust on Rhodamnia spp. foliage. Photo: Biosecurity Queensland

Myrtle rust on Rhodamnia spp. foliage. Photo: Biosecurity Queensland

Myrtle rust on Rhodamnia spp. foliage. Photo: Biosecurity Queensland

Myrtle rust on Rhodamnia spp. foliage. Photo: Biosecurity Queensland

Symptoms appear as brown to grey spots or lesions, often with red-purple haloes, that go the whole way through the leaf.

After a few days, masses of bright yellow or orange-yellow spores (powdery specks) appear on the lesion surface.

Lesions can form on actively growing leaves, shoots, fruits and flowers, damaging them and reducing growth and vigour. Over time, some species may die from myrtle rust.

Potential impacts

Myrtle rust may potentially have a significant impact on Queensland’s biodiversity, the department's estate (national parks and State forests) and commercial industries using myrtaceous plants, including the cut flower, nursery, garden, native forest timber and bee keeping.

Myrtle rust and park visitors

Producing large numbers of spores that are easily dispersed by wind, myrtle rust can spread rapidly. Visitors can help by:

  • being aware of what myrtle rust looks like
  • checking the web page of the park or forest you intend to visit to find out if myrtle rust is present
  • always staying on roads or vehicle tracks when driving to reduce contact between vehicles and plants
  • staying on walking tracks at all times when hiking and bushwalking
  • never collecting or moving plants or parts of plants.

If infected plants are found:

  • avoid contact and do not move any part of the plant, as this may spread spores
  • make a note of the type of plant and the specific location in the national park. If possible, take photos of the top and underside of the affected leaves
  • report all sightings to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or fill out the online form.

Come clean

  • Clean your vehicle, bicycle, camping and hiking equipment (including clothes and footwear) before entering the park. Remove soil, leaves and mud and clean with water and detergent.

Go clean

  • Clean your vehicle, bicycle, camping and hiking equipment (including clothes and footwear) when you leave each site or as soon as you arrive home. Remove soil, leaves and mud and clean with water and detergent.

    If contact has been made with vegetation infected by myrtle rust, put a jacket over clothes or change into clean clothes before leaving the site.

More information

Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease, caused by Uredo rangelii or Puccinia psidii, which belongs to the eucalyptus or guava rust complex of rust fungi. It requires a living host and affects plants in the Myrtaceae family. Producing large numbers of spores, myrtle rust is easily spread by wind, human activity and animals.

The disease is native to South America but was first detected in New South Wales in April 2010. By December, it was present in some areas of Queensland. Myrtle rust is now established in Far North Queensland with significant detections in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

While the fungus and the spores are believed to be non-toxic to wildlife, it is likely to make foliage and fruits less palatable as well as affecting their nutritional values.

Myrtle rust poses no known threat to humans. However, visitors to national parks can help reduce its spread.

Last updated
10 July 2012