Fungal diseases found in plants at stores around Indiana

Staff Report
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS—Only a week after warning of a fungal disease that kills oak trees, Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources is also fighting another disease that causes certain shrubs to lose their leaves.

The latest threat to Indiana’s greenery is boxwood blight, a fungal disease that infests plants in the Buxaceae family, including boxwoods, Japanese spurge and sweetbox. So far, it has only been found in Indiana in Korean boxwood bushes though the DNR is testing other species to ensure no other boxwoods have been contaminated.

The fungus causes dark leaf spots, and rapid defoliation of the plant, typically starting on the bottom of the plant and moving upward. The fungus can easily spread from a single infected plant to surrounding plants from water and dropped leaves.

The DNR said a shipment of infected plants was found at a Home Depot store in Indiana that originated from the Cottage Gardens nursery in Ohio. The infected plants are being pulled from shelves in 13 Home Depot stores, and will be disposed of to prevent the fungus from spreading to other plants.

Annual inspections of nursery stock by the DNR verify that this pathogen is not indigenous to Indiana, nor has it be found in nursery stock that is sourced locally. 

The boxwood blight was discovered as the DNR also is combating “sudden oak death” fungus discovered in rhododendron plants shipped to Indiana. The DNR first warned of the oak-killing problem a week ago, but Wednesday said the problem is more widespread than first known.

So far, it has been found on rhododendron plants in 70 Walmart and 18 Rural King locations, and the DNR has ordered them to stop selling rhododendrons until further notice.

About 1,500 rhododendrons affected with the fungus have been destroyed, with another 1,500 pulled from stores. Any quarantined material not infected will be released following testing at Purdue University.

This is the first time that the disease, which has killed large tracts of oak trees on the West Coast, has been located in the Midwest. The disease can kill oak trees located as far away as six feet from an infected plant.

The DNR is asking people who bought any of these plants in the last four weeks to destroy them, or to contact the DNR so that they may assist you in removing and destroying them by calling 866-NO-EXOTIC or (866) 663-9684

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