Q. I read about a new disease affecting boxwoods. I have quite a few boxwoods in my landscape, and I am a little worried. What is this disease and what does it look like?
A. Unfortunately, you heard correctly. Our cool, wet spring this year, set the stage for the development and spread of a new landscape disease - boxwood blight. The disease has been present in other southeastern states several years, but just recently arrived in Alabama.
Boxwood blight is a fungal disease that was detected in installed landscapes across Alabama this spring. When infected boxwoods are planted in a landscape, the pathogen can easily spread to other established boxwoods via splashing water, whether irrigation or rain. Additionally, equipment, soil, shoes, clothing and even animals can aid in the dispersal of this disease.
So, what should you look for? Symptoms of boxwood blight include circular, tan leaf spots with darker borders. The spots may develop a bulls-eye appearance. Infected leaves will turn brown and rapidly drop from the plant. The sudden defoliation and resulting leaf litter scattered around the base of the plant are important symptoms to look for, as well.
Defoliated stems may produce new shoots, giving the appearance that the plants will recover, only to have another round of leaf spots and related leaf drop. The stems develop dark brown or black thin lesions or streaks that are also unique to boxwood blight. (Photo: Adria Bordas, VT Institute and State University, Bugwood.org)
What can you do? There is no known cure for boxwood blight. However, a number of steps can be taken to prevent the spread of the blight.
While this disease is not yet widespread, we should become aware of it and be observant. Following the steps listed above can greatly inhibit the distribution of boxwood blight throughout our Alabama landscapes. If you suspect that one or more of your boxwoods are showing symptoms, please consult with your local extension agent. Also, for further diagnosis, you may send pictures or samples to the Plant Diagnostic Laboratory in Birmingham, http://www.aces.edu/counties/Jefferson/plantlab/ .
Written by Bethany A. O’Rear of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
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