Dieback in native vegetation in the Mount Lofty Ranges

  • Fact sheet
  • August 2015
A gum near Keyneton showing signs of
poor health due to mistletoe.

What is dieback?

“Dieback” is a common term for the gradual death or decline in the health of vegetation. Our environment is marked by extremes of drought, flood, salinity and fire. This can place stress on plants, affecting their ability to cope with other factors such as insects or pathogens. Fragmentation of vegetation compounds these stresses.

Recovery can occur, but plant death is inevitable if the stress factors continue long enough. Death can take weeks, months or even years. Individual plants may be affected, as well as large areas of native vegetation. Most often observed in eucalypts, the classic visual symptoms of dieback occur in three stages.

  1. The initial stage shows as crown or canopy thinning, beginning at the branch tips and progressively moving toward the trunk. Bare twigs often protrude from the tree crown
  2. Affected trees may partially recover through new stem and leaf growth from the trunk and branches as the tree attempts to replace the lost foliage of the crown
  3. Finally, all foliage dies off, leaving only dead twigs and branches.

Symptoms to look for:

What causes dieback?

There are a number of visible and underlying factors that can cause dieback.

Visible factors include:

Underlying factors include:

What can you do?

Treatment of underlying factors is the only long-term solution. Treatment of visible factors may only have limited effect because if the main stress factors are not removed, re-establishment, re-infection, or re-infestation is possible. It is important to identify factors correctly before taking any action.

Short term remedial actions

Long term remedial actions

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