Local News

Sudden Oak Death Threatens N.C. Symbol

Posted April 30, 2004

— A tree disease on the West Coast is showing up in North Carolina.

Sudden Oak Death is killing oak trees in parts of California and Oregon. Now, inspectors found the disease on host plants shipped to several nurseries and garden centers in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, oaks offer more than shade. The trees are a symbol of the state's capital.

"We're in the City of Oaks in Raleigh. It's certainly not something you want to mess with," said Keith Ramsey, owner of Garden Supply.

Ramsey is not messing around with Sudden Oak Death.

The disease made its way into some of the state's nurseries and garden centers on ornamental plants from Monrovia Growers, a large California nursery.

"We've sent full truck loads of plant material back or had the nursery dump it because we won't take things that have insects or disease problems," Ramsey said.

Camellias are among the plants that can carry the disease.

"You'd see leaf loss and die back on the plant," Ramsey said.

If spread to oak trees, Sudden Oak Death lives up to its name.

"The disease actually causes a canker, a bleeding canker on those trees," said Gene Cross, the plant pest administrator for the state Department of Agriculture.

Under the bleeding layer of bark is diseased tissue. The leaves turn brown and the tree dies.

"With the severity and the potential prospects of this disease potentially becoming established here, it's a high priority for us," Cross said.

Inspectors are tracking down plants that may be disease hosts. Once identified, the plants are

quarantined

and held for testing.

"That's the kind of thing you need to do to be on the safe side," Ramsey said.

North Carolina is the 10th state to confirm the presence of sudden oak death traced to Monrovia Growers in Azusa, Calif.

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