In April 2005, the rust fungus Puccinia psidii (most widely known as guava rust or eucalyptus rust) was found in Hawai'i. This was the first time this rust had been found outside the Neotropics (broadly-defined, including subtropical Florida, where the rust first established in the 1970s). First detected on a nursery-grown 'ohi'a plant, it became known as ''ohi'a rust'in Hawai'i. The rust spread rapidly and by August 2005 had been found throughout the main Hawaiian Islands. The rust probably reached Hawai'i via the live plant trade or via the foliage trade. In Hawai'i, the rust has infected three native plant species and at least eight non-native species. Effects have been substantial on the endangered endemic plant Eugenia koolauensis and the introduced rose apple, Syzygium jambos. Billions of yellow, asexual urediniospores are produced on rose apple, but a complete life cycle (involving sexual reproduction) has not yet been observed. The rust is autoecious (no alternate host known) on Myrtaceae. The strain introduced into Hawai'i is found sparingly on 'ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha), the dominant tree of Hawai'i's forests, with sporadic damage detected to date. The introduction of a rust strain that causes widespread damage to 'ohi'a would be catastrophic for Hawai'i's native biodiversity. Most imports of material potentially contaminated with rust are shipped to Hawai'i from Florida and California (from which P. psidii was reported in late 2005 by Mellano, 2006). Florida is known to have multiple strains. The identity of the strain or strains in California is unclear, but one of them is known to infect myrtle, Myrtus communis, a species commonly imported into Hawai'i. It is important to ecosystem conservation and commercial forestry that additional rust strains or genotypes be prevented from establishing in Hawai'i. The purpose of this analysis of risk is to evaluate the need for an interim rule by the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture to regulate plant material of Myrtaceae arriving from the continental United States and to clarify consequences of such a rule, especially implications for possible eventual action by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, to assist in protection of Hawai'i's native and non-native Myrtaceae from plant pests.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
An analysis of the risk of introduction of additional strains of the rust puccinia psidii Winter ('Ohi'a Rust) to Hawai'i