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Sudden oak death coming to area

June 06, 2004|By KATE COLEMAN

A disease that is killing oaks and other plants in the western United States may have arrived in Maryland.

Phytophthora ramorum, also known as sudden oak death, is a fungus-like disease that causes leaf spots, cankers and dieback in plants, trees and other shrubbery, according to information at www.hgic. umd.edu, the Web site of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center at University of Maryland in College Park.

The disease spreads via spores from infected leaves and twigs. It can be spread in the air, by water or by people.

The name sudden oak death is kind of a misnomer, said David Clement, Home and Garden Information Center director.

The disease doesn't kill suddenly, Clement said, and it affects more host plants than oaks - about 50. A list of host plants, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is available online at www.aphis.usda.gov/ ppq/ispm/sod/usdasodlist.html.

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Azaleas and other rhododenrons, maples and Douglas fir are among susceptible plants, Clement said.

The pathogen is most active in the cool and wet of spring and fall.

"We've had perfect weather for it," Clement said.

The Home and Garden Information Center is screening for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which will test plant tissue samples to determine infection. The MDA is particularly interested in testing any camellias, lilacs and viburnums that were purchased or planted in 2003 or 2004.

The MDA also is interested in examining other susceptible plants that are exhibiting unusual symptoms, including brown spots on the leaves, lesions on leaves or stems, wilting and dieback.

If you suspect that you have an infected plant, whether or not it has symptoms, call the Home and Garden Information Center at 1-800-342-2507.

Phone consultants will help you determine if a sample should be sent to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. They will take your name and address and forward it to the MDA. Or you can send your name and mailing address to the Home and Garden Information Center with a message requesting a postage paid sample kit via the "Send a Question" link on the center's Web site.

Do not send or carry samples to the Home and Garden Information Center or your county cooperative extension office.

So far, two samples have tested positive in Maryland, Clement said.

The information and testing are part of an effort to keep the disease from spreading from infected nursery stock to native stands.

There has been tremendous loss in the West, Clement said.

For information, contact the Home and Garden Information Center at 1-800-342-2507 or on the Internet at www.hgic.umd.edu.

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