Threatening Clouds on the Horizon
In 2011, a new boxwood disease pathogen was regrettably transported into North America. Called boxwood blight, it was first observed in the 1990s in the U.K. and has since become a serious threat there, as well as Europe and New Zealand.
The causal organism of the disease is a fungus in the genus Cylindrocladium that forms leaf spots which then very quickly defoliate the plant. There is no curative treatment to date and infected shrubs usually die.
Since arriving on our shores, it has been identified in nurseries and landscapes in 14 states along the eastern seaboard, but it has also been found in Oregon. Boxwood blight had not been found in Georgia until this year, but has now been positively confirmed at two different locations in metro Atlanta.
This is a very sobering threat to our historic garden, as well as a legitimate concern for all gardeners who grow boxwood. As stated above, there is no cure for the disease which leaves prevention as the best strategy for protection. Not bringing in any new boxwood plants has been the primary recommendation for historic sites such as ours, which we have adhered to, but new plants were not the culprit at one of the Atlanta landscapes where blight was found.
It has been determined that the disease was introduced by spores brought in on the shoes or clothing of the landscape crew doing work there. As a result, we feel it is imperative that our preventative efforts be ramped up, so we are implementing a disinfection strategy for the shoe soles of our staff as well as our guests. To accomplish this, by the time this issue is mailed we will have installed simple floor mats containing a disinfectant solution that, when stepped upon, should greatly minimize the chance of the disease spores being carried into the garden. The mats will be at our visitor center as well as at our horticulture staff building.
It is our sincere hope that this, as well as other cultural measures being taken will sufficiently protect our cherished boxwood as much as is reasonably possible until better treatments are found. We realize that we are also asking for the willing compliance of our visitors on this matter and want to thank you all for your understanding. If more information about boxwood blight is desired go to http://www.extension.uga.edu and search boxwood alert.