Myrtle rust disease in Northland

Four days ago, some plants with signs of myrtle rust were discovered at a plant nursery in Kerikeri, Northland. The leaves have yellow spots on them. At another garden nearby, more diseased plants were found today. Biosecurity workers have destroyed diseased plants and have sprayed others, hoping to kill the disease.

Myrtle rust disease is a fungus disease which is spread by wind. The disease originated in South America but has spread around many places in the world. As our prevailing wind is westerly, it is probable that this disease came from eastern Australia. The disease is hard to eradicate. It affects plants in the myrtle family which include our popular pohutukawa tree. We call this our Christmas tree as it flowers with bright red flowers at Christmas time in Wellington harbour and around many other shores.

The disease could also affect feijoa plants and manuka. This would be bad news for our manuka honey industry which is worth $300m and is growing.

Listen to Kiwifruit disease to find out about another plant disease which affected an important export fruit.


• Biosecurity (n) – a government agency which protects our country from foreign insects and diseases
• fungus (n) – organisms like yeast, mould, rust
• originated (v) – came from, started; origin (n) – the place where something began
• prevailing (adj) – most common
• eradicate (v) – get rid of completely

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