Envite employee Bobby Bain assessing Pandanus at Red Rock.
Envite employee Bobby Bain assessing Pandanus at Red Rock. Mick Webb

Stowaway could spell disaster for iconic coastal species

A NASTY stowaway has made its way to Coffs Harbour and our iconic Pandanus palms are under threat.

The Pandanus plant hopper (Jamella australiae) has already wreaked havoc on the coastal palms from Noosa to Coolangatta, but has recently been found in NSW as far south as Coffs Harbour.

Several trees in the region have already died and experts are warning there is potential for the infestation to spread much further.

It has already caused over 50 per cent mortality in unmanaged populations across south-east Queensland and northern NSW.

The plant hopper is native to north Queensland where it is controlled by natural predators that are not present in NSW.

It has moved throughout eastern Australia as a stow away on landscape specimens and severe infestations and mortality has occurred.

Envite Environment in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coffs Harbour City Council are working together to assess the extent of dieback in the area and to develop a management program to reduce its impact on the Coffs Coast.

"Heavy infestations of the plant hopper feeding between the tightly packed leaves of the Pandanus destroy leaf tissue and produce large amounts of honeydew, which encourages the growth of mould.

"This causes leaves to yellow, drop and kills the tree's growing points, the rot spreads to each growth head, eventually resulting in the death of the entire tree,” Envite Environment coordinator Mick Webb said.

Two workshops will be held for local residents, professionals and land care volunteers to raise public awareness, familiarise with identification and look at steps to take to assist in long term management.

"Pandanus trees are an iconic frontline coastal species, they provide lasting images of coastal living with their characteristic drooping appearance and close proximity to the ocean,” Mr Webb said.

Pandanus expert Joel Fostin who is leading the fight in south-east Queensland will be on hand to spread awareness about the plight of Pandanus palms. He will present at two locations on May 23 (Charlesworth Bay in the morning and Corindi Beach Park Reserve in the afternoon) to acquaint with identification and symptoms of affected plants.

Contact Envite Environment on 6650 9170 or email mickw@envite.org.au for further details.

This project is an initiative delivered by Coffs Harbour City Council, as part of the Environmental Levy Grants Program.

The general public are being asked to report any infestations to local authorities.