Gardeners Urged to Look for Signs of Boxwood Blight

Harmful Fungus Found in Chester, Cumberland and Lancaster Counties

Jun 04, 2013, 14:54 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania gardeners should be on the lookout for signs of boxwood blight, a fungal disease that causes sudden leaf loss and sometimes death of the popular broadleaf evergreen shrubs.

Cylindrocladium buxicola fungus causes blight in all types and ages of Buxus species, including boxwood, common groundcover pachysandra and sarcococca (sweet box).

Blight was confirmed in Lancaster and Chester counties in 2012, and was found in Cumberland County in May.

"Increasing heat and high humidity create the perfect conditions for boxwood blight," said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. "This disease is still new to Pennsylvania and we need the help of the green industry and homeowners to determine where it is so we can stop its spread further."

Symptoms include leaf spots, rapid defoliation, distinctive black cankers on stems and severe dieback. Plants can become weakened by the fungus and susceptible to other fatal diseases.

Fungus spores are sticky and cling to anything exposed to an infected plant, including gardening tools, gloves, jewelry, shoes, pets and lawnmowers. Spores can last more than seven years in soil and dropped leaves.

Some fungicides are available to prevent infection and spread but none can cure a plant once it is infected.

Reduce the risk of developing boxwood blight by:

  • Purchasing plants from reputable sources;
  • Watering the plant's roots and not its leaves in the morning rather than the evening, because fungus thrives on wet leaves; and
  • Cleaning pruning tools after pruning each bush in a 10 percent bleach solution (one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water).

If you think you have found boxwood blight on your property, contact the local Penn State Cooperative Extension Office for free diagnosis. Staff will take samples for laboratory analysis to determine if blight exists. Do not destroy your shrubs until a diagnosis is made, as symptoms are similar to other leaf-dropping insects and diseases.

Discard diseased plants through burial, burning if allowed by the municipality, or by double bagging the entire plant and disposing of it at a landfill. Do not compost infected plants. Once cleared, do not replant areas affected by blight with at risk species.

First found in Europe, the fungus spread to a North Carolina nursery in 2011. It has since spread to nine other states, with Connecticut's plant nurseries being the hardest hit.

Pennsylvania's green industry ranks sixth nationally with a $6.8 billion economic impact.

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Media contact: Nicole L. C. Bucher, 717-787-5085

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture