Friday, September 4, 2015

Boxwood Blight Active Again

After a lull of several months, samples of suspected boxwood blight have been coming to the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic (PDIC) over the course of the last month. Just this week we’ve had confirmation on samples from a garden center in Macon County, North Carolina, and home landscapes in Transylvania, Jackson, and Forsyth Counties.
Symptoms of boxwood blight at a garden center. Photo: Alan Durden, NCCES

This news is disheartening for two reasons. First of all, the find in Winston-Salem follows concerted efforts to stamp out the 2013 outbreak there. Secondly, the other confirmations this week represent the first reports of boxwood blight in our southern mountain counties of North Carolina.

Landscapers, homeowners, nurseries, and garden centers should be alert for symptoms of boxwood blight: brown leaf spots, black streaks on green twigs, and leaf drop, usually starting in the lower portions of the plant. As we move toward the holiday season, individuals and businesses that cut boxwood tips for wreaths and other greenery should be sure they understand the implications of this disease for their industry.
Leaf spots, stem streaks, and defoliation typical of boxwood blight.

Comprehensive sets of recommendations are available from the Virginia Boxwood Blight Task Force. Those publications mention Virginia’s “Boxwood Blight Cleanliness Program”. The equivalent for North Carolina is the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Plant Industry Division, Plant Protection Section's Boxwood Blight Compliance Program for nurseries.

It is still the policy of the PDIC that samples submitted by nurseries for boxwood blight confirmation only will be processed at no charge; however, we recommend submitting them through the NC Cooperative Extension Service or the NCDA&CS.