Boxwood blight invades North America
Devastating fungus has already stripped shrubbery in Europe and New Zealand
By Susan Milius
Web edition : Friday, January 20th, 2012
Shrubs may be trembling by doorsteps across North America as an aggressive fungus disease of boxwood invades the continent.
Boxwood blight, caused by a Cylindrocladium fungus, was unknown to science before 2000 but has now spread through Europe and New Zealand. In October, U.S. authorities confirmed that the blight had jumped continents, with infections confirmed in North Carolina and Connecticut. By mid-January, with growers and pathologists on alert, the fungus had turned up in at least five more states — Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Oregon — and British Columbia.
The blight starts with spots on leaves and black streaks on twigs. Within a few weeks, a plump shrub can turn into a clump of bare sticks.
“I’ve never poured diesel fuel on a boxwood, but if I did, that’s what it would look like,” says Lynn R. Batdorf, curator of the as-yet-uninfected boxwood collection at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.