Simple steps can halt plant killer

Participants in a recent local workshop on Phytophthora Dieback which threatens the Surf Coast’s bushland were shocked to learn that the water mould that rots the roots of plants is much tougher than at first thought.

Friends of Point Addis form a boot spraying conga line at a recent workshop. Photo: MELANIE WRIGHT

Dr Jane Allardyce of Deakin University told 25 people at the Friends of Point Addis workshop that the mould spreads by moving through water and moist soil but it can survive for six to eight years in leaf litter and dry soils up to three metres deep.

Research has shown that Phytophthora (pronounced Fy-toff-thora) Dieback can attack more than a quarter of taller plant species and between half and three-quarters of low-growing flowering plants, just the sort of plants that make the Surf Coast’s bushland and heathland so beautiful.

The plants most at risk in the Surf Coast are the ancient grasstrees, Coastal banksias and Horny conebush.

But home gardens, in which the beauty comes from non-native species, are equally in peril. Among susceptible plants are apple, peach and apricot trees, grapevines, camellias, azaleas, roses, proteas and rhododendrons.

Healthy Grass Trees won’t stay green for long with infected neighbours nearby.

It is in everyone’s interest to minimise the spread of the disease and workshop participants learned some simple precautions they could take including:

  • Anyone walking or riding bikes in bushland should start the trip with clean footwear, camping gear, bike frames and tyres and avoid walking or riding in puddles.
  • Carry a spray bottle containing 70 per cent methylated spirits and 30 per cent water and a small brush to clean and disinfect footwear, gear and tyres before leaving a diseased area. Horse-riders should treat their horses’ hooves as if they were boots.
  • Stick to formed tracks and avoid walking or riding in wet or muddy conditions if at all possible.
  • Use wash-down stations if they are provided.

Gardeners can take extra precautions to safeguard their gardens including:

  • Never taking plants, soil, gravel or bush litter from bushland.
  • Mulch should be properly sterilised and plants sourced from reputable nurseries.
  • Using clean and sterilise equipment and tools with 70/30 methylated spirits and water, which is good garden hygiene even if Phytophthora Dieback isn’t present.

How do we know where the killer is lurking?

Workshop participants learned to assume the worst and to always use the hygiene precautions when enjoying Surf Coast bushland.

Weeds are also threatening flora on the Surf Coast: For more information read Identifying the enemies and What is an environmental weed? 

Related blog post: 

Dieback fight back – protect plant-life on our coast
Weed Profile: Boneseed
Weeding out coastal invaders

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