Boxwood blight disease found in Oregon

Oregon takes action to stop new plant disease
By Oregon Dept. of Agriculture

Boxwood blight, a fungal plant disease new to North America, has been detected in Oregon for the first time, prompting state officials to take measures to eradicate it. However, unlike the pathogen that causes sudden oak death, the newly-reported disease is no threat to the state’s environment and only affects boxwoods, a plant species that is not native to Oregon.

Boxwood blight, Cylindrocladium buxicola, has now been found in eight states and a Canadian province. It has previously invaded Europe and New Zealand. Boxwoods are commonly grown and sold by nurseries. The Oregon Department of Agriculture discovered boxwood blight disease at a Washington County nursery in December. ODA is working with the nursery to destroy all the infected blocks by bagging and burying the plants. The nursery is also voluntarily taking other actions to get rid of the disease.

A dozen other boxwood producers in Oregon have been surveyed with no signs of the blight. Additional producers will be inspected this winter and spring.

Even though the disease only affects boxwoods, it can spread rapidly and cause this species of evergreen plants to lose their leaves. The disease doesn’t spread through the air but is transmitted from plant to plant by rain splash or contaminated trimmers. Symptoms typically start at the base of the plant and progress upwards.

Homeowners with old and valuable boxwood hedges should be careful to buy healthy nursery stock only from reputable dealers. Homeowners are also advised to sanitize hedge trimmers and trim less thrifty plants last.

Nursery owners seeking advice or more information about the disease can contact their ODA inspector, county OSU extension office, or the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN).

ODA and industry officials emphasize that boxwood blight does not approach the threat of sudden oak death in Oregon. However, ODA will continue working with partners such as OAN and Oregon State University in monitoring and managing any outbreak of boxwood blight in the future.

For more information, contact Dan Hilburn at (503) 986-4663.


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