You are here

Ex-situ conservation safeguarding Southern Penda from myrtle rust

Flowers of Southern Penda (Xanthostemon oppositifolius). Photo: M Fagg

Flowers of Southern Penda (Xanthostemon oppositifolius). Photo: M Fagg

Capsules of Southern Penda (Xanthostemon oppositifolius). Photo: J Halford
Capsules of Southern Penda (Xanthostemon oppositifolius). Photo: J Halford

Myrtle rust is a newly arrived and threatening fungal disease that affects the new growth, flowers and fruits of plants in the Myrtaceae family. This disease is spreading rapidly throughout eastern Australia and there is growing concern for many native Australian species. One particular species of concern is the Southern Penda (Xanthostemon oppositifolius).

Southern Penda is a stately tree attaining heights of more than 45m. Historically it was used as a timber tree but was also often cleared to make way for agriculture. Today it is most often observed as a short regrowth tree with a dense crown of glossy dark green leaves and colourful new growth. Southern Penda has great horticultural potential for parks and larger gardens.

Southern Penda is a species in the Myrtaceae family restricted to several populations in the Kin Kin, Maryborough and Bulburin areas in southeastern Queensland. The Australian Government has listed it as a vulnerable species under national legislation. Southern Penda is considered highly susceptible to myrtle rust and the rapid advancement of myrtle rust towards the Kin Kin area prompted the collection of the species for the Seeds for Life project.

The Seeds for Life team managed successfully to collect enough seed to act as a safeguard until more is understood on the impacts of myrtle rust on this species. Since these collections were made, monitoring indicated that myrtle rust arrived in the Kin Kin area in early 2012, affecting many rainforest myrtles, particularly scaly myrtle (Gossia hillii). Unfortunately, the Southern Penda has shown the effects of myrtle rust, as well as several other Xanthostemon species, highlighting the urgent need to collect and conserve seed from species threatened by myrtle rust.