Deck the halls, but beware of boxwood blight

Boxwood blightThe Grinch is not the only villain that shows up uninvited at Christmas. Boxwood blight, which has been found in about 30 Virginia counties, can deliver a dose of dieback to an unwitting landscape.

According to the Virginia Boxwood Blight Task Force, the fungal disease typically is introduced into a new location on infected boxwood or other susceptible plants. It also can be spread via contaminated garden tools, hoses, vehicles, clothing, shoes or infested leaves spread by leaf blowers. Wildlife, insects, domestic animals and humans that have been in contact with the blight spores also can spread them.

Consequently, boxwood cuttings in fresh holiday decorations pose a potential threat of exposure.

“I don’t use (boxwood) in any arrangements I make because of boxwood blight,” noted David Pippin, a Richmond floral designer who has decorated the Executive Mansion of Virginia in recent years. “It is OK to use cut boxwood from your own property for an arrangement that stays on your property, but not if you are transporting the arrangement somewhere else.

“There’s no cure for it, so the last thing we want to do is spread it.”

The task force recommends not using boxwood greenery, such as that in a wreath, near landscape boxwoods. Additionally, it recommends double-bagging spent holiday greenery in sealed plastic bags and disposing of it in a landfill rather than composting it or discarding it outdoors.

Boxwood blight, also known as box blight, was first discovered in Virginia in 2011 and results in defoliation and decline of susceptible boxwood. Once it is introduced to a landscape, it is difficult and costly to control with fungicides.

The state boxwood blight task force details best management practices for boxwoods in home and commercial settings at bit.ly/2RYxtKG and maintains a gallery of boxwood blight photos atbit.ly/2OUaHBH.

Real Virginia, a weekly television program produced by Virginia Farm Bureau, has featured a story about boxwood blight that can be viewed at bit.ly/rv14boxwood.

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