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Cinnamon Fungus Scourge of the forest

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EFFORTS to control the serious plant disease Cinnamon Fungus are being aided by Ballarat’s mountainbiking community.

A mountain-bike tyre-cleaning station has been installed in Woowookarung Regional Park to scrub and sterilise tyres to stop the spread of the fungus.

The cleaning station was built by Parks Victoria rangers with the assistance of the Ballarat Sebastopol Cycling Club and students from Mount Clear Secondary College. The group has also improved drainage along the park’s designated mountain bike trails behind Mount Clear Secondary School, and installed an information sign about the plant disease.

Cinnamon Fungus, also called ‘Dieback’, is a microscopic, soil-borne pathogen (disease-causing organism) that attacks and destroys plant root systems. The Austral Grass Tree, which is prominent in Woowookarung Regional Park, is particularly susceptible.

The presence of Cinnamon Fungus threatens not only vegetation communities – it can alter the ecology of entire ecosystems. It has been listed in the top 100 of the world’s most invasive species and as Victoria’s most significant plant pathogen.

Located in Ballarat’s south-east, the recently established Woowookarung Regional Park incorporates the previous Canadian State Forest and former Victorian Plantation Corporation land in the Mount Clear area.

Parks Victoria, Ranger Team Leader, Alex Schipperen said, “This is a great example of creating a healthy balance between recreation and conservation.” “Woowookarung Regional Park has a wonderful display of grass-trees – indeed, the Austral Grass Tree is something of a park icon.

“Protecting the habitat from invasive diseases such as the Cinnamon Fungus is an important role for Parks Victoria.

“We’re keen to also work with horse riders, walkers and other park users to ensure we can control this serious plant disease.” Ballarat Sebastopol Cycling Club, Dale Boucher added, “The Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club acknowledges the unique species of flora in Woowookarung Regional Park.” “To preserve native species and minimise the spread of cinnamon fungus, the club is encouraging all members and recreational cyclists to utilise the bike-wash station located in Mt Clear.”