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New Zealand Plant Protection 67 (2014): 324

Impact of Puccinia psidii on Māori taonga plant species

T.T. Alipia, D.A.J. Teulon, M.G. Cromey, A.T. Marsh and S.L.H. Viljanen-Rollinson


Myrtle rust, caused by the pathogen Puccinia psidii sensu lato, is a disease of species in the plant family Myrtaceae that is not found in New Zealand. It originates in South America, but it has steadily spread around the world and is now found in Australia and New Caledonia. While the potential economic and environmental impact of myrtle rust establishment in New Zealand has been well documented, the potential socio-cultural consequences, including those for Māori, have not. All New Zealand Myrtaceae species, including indigenous species, are at risk from P. psidii infection but the potential impact on their health is not known. All indigenous Myrtaceae species can be considered as Taonga (or treasure) by Māori, who have utilised the properties (e.g. spiritual, medicinal, construction, tools, food) of some species in many ways, both tangible and intangible. Optimally, preparedness and response plans for a myrtle rust incursion in New Zealand should consider the unique spiritual and other values that Māori associate with these plants.

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