Pandanus Die-back – Gladstone on the front line

My friends,
recently I was privileged to attend a Pandanus information session on Monday the 5th of February at Agnes Water hosted by The Gladstone Regional Council.

Pandanus plants are an iconic species for the Queensland coast, with the seeds being an important food source for indigenous people, and they remain an important part of the dune ecosystem. The roots reduce erosion damage, the seeds provide food for many animals, and the crowns store rainwater for wildlife. The trees are also a salt buffer for other plants against the on shore winds.

Joel Fostin from Ecosystem Management and Biosecurity Solutions spoke to us about the current threats facing this iconic species with particular regard to the introduced Jamella australiae or leafhopper.

Leafhoppers have been transplanted from northern Australia via specimen trees, so while they are a native species to Australia, they are not native to this area and are causing extensive damage.

Up the eastern coast of Queensland up to 50% of mature trees have been lost which is a shocking thing and something I was not aware of. The female trees which have survived are stressed and not producing seed reliably. This issue isn't being managed in a co-ordinated way at all.

Gladstone is on the front line for this issue as there are no leafhoppers north of 1770 Creek at this stage, but we need to be aware of the possible spread north of this damaging pest.

The leafhoppers life cycle is egg to adult in 8 weeks and they can lay 5-8000 eggs on a single leaf. the good news is that wasp control trials are showing promise. The wasp is tiny, and attacks the leafhopper eggs, rather than the wasp itself, and this means that the wasps can be moved from tree to tree with the right technique.

How can you help?
Pandanus seeds can be planted just past the first dune, to a depth of halfway up the seed, or they can be propogated and replanted. they sprout fairly easily and have high genetic diversity so increasing the population is one strategy, but a long term one.

Keep a close eye on your local trees and if you see crowns starting to die off, please contact Council as soon as possible as there are a range of measures which can be put in place to save the trees.

More information:

Pandanus die back at Workman's Beach, Agnes Water

A healthy pandanus plant at Workman's Beach, Agnes Water

Pandanus seeds ready to be planted along the foreshore

A young pandanus plant ready to be planted out.

A pandanus seed contains multiple sprouts which can be separated and planted in a nursery setting.