Banana freckle

Banana freckle is a fungal disease of banana leaves and fruit.

There is no risk to human health from eating banana freckle infected bananas.

It's a declared pest under Northern Territory (NT) Plant Health Act 2008.

Banana freckle is a serious threat to the banana industry for commercial production as well as backyard growers.

The disease decreases plant health and productivity by reducing the amount of healthy leaf area, and affects fruit quality and appearance.

Banana freckle has previously been detected in Australia:

  • Phyllosticta maculata infects Lady Finger and Bluggoe bananas
  • Phyllosticta cavendishii mainly infects Cavendish bananas, not considered established in Australia
    • the NT is currently responding to reports of this fungus on Dwarf Cavendish bananas.

Banana freckle has been recorded in 27 countries across South-east Asia, Oceania and India. These include:

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Fiji
  • Hawaii
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga.

NT eradication program

Phyllosticta cavendishii was previously detected in the NT in 2013.

After a national eradication plan, the NT was declared banana freckle free on 1 February 2019.

For information on the previous eradication program go to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade website.

The current detection in the NT is not thought to be connected to the previous outbreak.

Banana freckle makes leaves and fruit spotty and has a sandpaper feel due to the fungal spore vessels sticking up through the surface of the leaf or skin.

Banana freckle on fruitBanana freckle on leaves

The incubation period for this fungus can be as little as 20 days in hot, humid weather.

Fungal infection and disease symptoms can occur on both young and old leaves. Two types of leaf spot symptoms are possible. The spots give the leaves a rough feel.

Severely affected leaves turn yellow, wither and die prematurely.

When the leaf collapses as a result of infection it provides an abundant source of inoculum for the pathogen to spread to lower leaves and the developing fruit.

Fruit is susceptible to infection from the time of bunch emergence until maturity.

On very young fruit individual spots first appear as small red brown flecks surrounded by a halo of dark green water-soaked tissue.

Secondary infections increase disease severity as fruit matures.

Banana freckle can damage fruit and leaves.

Banana freckle causes spotting on banana leaves and fruit.

The leaves and fruit have a sandpaper feel due to fungal spore vessels sticking up through the surface of the leaf or skin.

Spotting may extend to the:

  • flower bracts
  • leaf midrib and
  • bunch stalks.

The disease also infects fruit causing blemishes and increases in severity as the fruit matures.

Large areas of the surface may become black due to dense aggregation of spots.

The pathogen may infect fruit as early as a few weeks after bud emergence, and the disease progresses as the fruit develops.

Banana freckle is a 'wet spore' organism. It generally moves short distances by water droplet splashes and wind-driven rain.

The fungus is spread over larger distances by people moving infected fruit, leaves and suckers used for planting.

To protect your property from banana freckle, you must have strict biosecurity measures in place.

If you have banana trees, you should inspect them for banana freckle.

For advice around chemical use and strategies for control, contact the plant biosecurity team.

For helpful information that can be tailored to your property, nursery or orchard visit the farm biosecurity website.

How to report

If you think you have seen banana freckle in the NT:

Submit a sample

You can submit a specimen for identification to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT).

To find out how to submit a sample go to the DITT website.

More information


For information on managing banana freckle, go to the Australian Banana Growers’ Council website.

For biosecurity alerts and updates, go to the Biosecurity NT Facebook page.

Last updated: 31 October 2022

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