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Boxwood blight found in Wisconsin for first time, officials say

July 28, 2018

A fungal disease that attacks a popular garden shrub has been found in Wisconsin for the first time.

Boxwood blight, a disease that first appeared in the U.S. seven years ago, was found at a plant nursery in Kenosha County, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said.

The disease was discovered by DATCP nursery inspectors conducting a routine annual inspection.

Samples were sent to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which confirmed the samples contained the fungus that causes boxwood blight and can also infect pachysandra, a common groundcover plant.

“This disease threatens our nursery and landscaping industries, as well as consumers,” said Brian Kuhn, director of the DATCP Bureau of Plant Industry.

The fungus causes brown spots on a plants’s leaves, with the spots getting larger until they merge and leaves drop off. The disease most often spreads when infected plants are moved, but the fungus can also be carried on garden tools, clothes and in vehicles.

Spores from boxwood blight can stay active in the soil for up to six years, so officials say if a plant is infected the plant and leaf litter should be burned, buried at least two feet deep or double bagged and sent to a landfill.

Boxwood is used for hedges and foundation plantings, as well as in holiday decorations.

The Kenosha County grower is contacting customers who might have purchased infected stock.

Anyone who suspects boxwood blight should contact the county UW-Extension office.

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