Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

6. Recreation in Natural Areas

Phytophthora (pronounced fy-TOFF-thora) is a devastating plant killer causing Phytophthora Dieback disease and infection is permanent. It is a soil borne water mould which spreads naturally in water or roots. It is spread much faster and further by humans moving even small amounts of contaminated soil or plant material. So when you’re in the bush please take care not to spread this devastating plant disease. 

How to stop the spread: are you a carrier?

This leaflet explains how Phytophthora Dieback is spread and the simple actions required to halt the spread.

Good hygiene practices are essential: start out clean and stay clean. This is much easier if you stick to paths or roads and avoid wet areas.

An easy and effective method to clean your shoes, bike tyres and any gear that touches the ground is to use a spray bottle with 70% methylated spirits.

  • In a 1 litre spray bottle, these are widely available; carefully pour 700 ml of methylated spirits. 
  • Using a funnel makes it a much safer job. Then fill to top with water, replace spray nozzle and shake the bottle gently to mix. 
  • Use a scrubbing brush or stick to get dirt and mud out of the treads of your boots or wheels,
    then spray with the 70% methylated spirits.

Others have also developed great informational material too. For example, the Sydney Harbour Foundation Trust in NSW, or in other states, such as WA Dieback Working Group: Managing Phytophthora Dieback in Bushland.

If you’re part of a walking/adventuring group, it would be great if hygiene for plant & animal health was discussed before each field activity along with the obligatory reminders for human health on sun care, water intake etc. 

There are a number of sites with great material developed by other states in Australia, such as the Western Australian Project Dieback site, which also includes hygiene information. There is also a detailed guide from WA, in Managing Phytophthora Dieback in Bushland A Guide for Landholders and Community Conservation Groups EDITION 4, 2008 Western Australia (PDF file 2.8 MB).

The National Parks Association journal Jan-Mar 11 (Vol. 55.1) has an article on page 20, which was written in response to our education program and using material for the leaflets and our website. Please feel free to use any of the material from our brochures for any of your clubs publications or websites.

The survey work done by the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney for the Hawkesbury-Nepean and Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authorities areas resulted in maps of presence being developed for those areas. The problem of course is that we can not tell you about areas we haven't surveyed, so the maps only give you part of the picture.  Zoe-Joy Newby is currently conducting a survey in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area which will result in a map and risk model for this area also being developed.

The best ways to stop the spread are

  • ensuring good hygiene
  • starting out clean and staying clean
  • sticking to tracks
  • avoiding muddy areas
  • definitely not going from known infested areas to unknown or sensitive, threatened or rare sp or community habitats.

Using Methylated Spirits (95% ethanol), mixed roughly 7 parts to 3 parts water is a good disinfectant for anything that will come in contact with the ground. Spray bottles are widely available and an easy way to apply the disinfectant. 

A good strong brush is great to get out soil that is deeply imbedded soil into boot treads and bike tyres. Once cleaned of mud & soil then spray with 70% alcohol.

Not only your shoes! Soil sticks on anything that touches the ground.

  • backpacks
  • walking sticks
  • tent pegs and of course
  • off-road bikes and car tyres
  • even clothing while you’re sitting!

So dust yourself off and discard any mud or soil as you go!