Phytophthora cinnamomi – Can you help?

Phytophthora cinnamomi, or Cinnamon Fungus as it was once commonly called, is a foreign plant pathogen. The pathogen is a microscopic water mould that attacks the root systems of susceptible plant species.

Phytophthora cinnamomi (pronounced: fy-TOFF-thor-ah) does not spread quickly by itself across the landscape. Instead people are the prime movers of the pathogen. Numerous activities can lead to the inadvertent movement of infected water, soil and plant material. Overtime, the pathogen has been widely dispersed across Victoria and as yet there are no means to eradicate it in the field.

A Grass tree (Xanthorea australis) that has been killed by Phytophthora.

A Grass tree (Xanthorea australis) that has been killed by Phytophthora.

Heathlands and heath forest communities have been significantly impacted by the pathogen. A key indicator of the pathogen is the iconic Austral Grasstree which is highly susceptible and sadly whose ultimate existence in Victoria is threatened by the pathogen.

In some ecosystems the impact has been dramatic, leading to the loss of many plant species and native animals that depend upon them for food and shelter.

Research into the resistance of some species may provide a key to long-term management. Presently however the aim is to curb further spread. Collaborative efforts are needed to focus on protecting significant public land assets from inadvertent introduction of the pathogen. This requires improving hygiene procedures and appropriate planning of area usage.

A Strategy has been published to help coordinate and direct public land managers in managing this threat in key areas. Victoria’s Public Land Phytophthora cinnamomi Management Strategy was developed in consultation with major stakeholders. It states the objectives, management principles, legislation, priorities and proposed management approaches.

The full report is available for download from DSE. Hard copies are available on request to the DSE Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

(Article Reproduced with permission from DSE)