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In late March, myrtle rust was discovered on the Chatham Islands. It’s a minute spore dispersed by the wind or by touch and likely travelled here on the wind from New Zealand.
It was discovered in Taupeka and has already spread to an area of at least 50km² in the north of Chatham Island.
Myrtle rust infects plants from the Myrtaceae family, like pōhutukawa and the exotic Chilean guava/cranberry. The disease attacks new growth (like leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit) and, in extreme cases, may kill the plant.
You might see bright yellow powdery spots on leaves, or sometimes brown/grey rust pustules or grey 'fuzzy' spore growth. Some leaves may become buckled or twisted and die off.
Image by Lloyd Esler (CC-BY-NC)
Thankfully, there are no plants endemic to the Chatham Islands that myrtle rust will impact. It may however affect some New Zealand introduced or exotic plants, including:
The good news is that it may help control the highly invasive Chilean guava, which is a plant pest that has negatively impacted many land owners as well as our sensitive marsh ecosystems.
There is no cure for myrtle rust and, because it is spread by the wind, it will likely continue to spread. If you spot it, report it on iNaturalist(external link) so we can track how it’s spreading.
There are a few things you can do to slow the spread of the disease:
For more information contact email@example.com or visit myrtlerust.org.nz(external link) or doc.govt.nz/myrtle-rust(external link)