Invasive myrtle rust fungus poses 'unprecedented' risk to native trees

Invasive myrtle rust fungus poses ‘unprecedented’ risk to native trees

Native trees like the paperbark are central to the culture of the traditional owners of K’Gari (Fraser Island).

“These species are living stories,” says Matilda Davis, who works with the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation as a biosecurity and climate change officer on the World Heritage-listed island.

Matilda Davis has been checking the health of trees after wild fires on K’gari (Fraser Island).(Supplied: Matilda Davis)

Apart from many being edible or medicinal, these trees have ancestral and spiritual connections, and are key to the health of Butchulla country, she says.

For example, the paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia)—called deebing by the Butchulla people — can let them know when it’s safe to sustainably harvest certain foods.

“When the deebing flowers, it’s a seasonal indicator for particular kinds of seafood,” Ms Davis says.

Paperbark and other tea-trees belong to a large family known as Myrtaceae, which also include eucalypts, lilly pillies, bottlebrushes and guavas.