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Disease Threatens Boxwoods On East Coast

Scientists at Virginia Tech are urging the public to be careful using boxwood clippings in holiday wreaths and garlands because of a plant disease that is threatening the shrub up and down the East Coast.

The disease is called Boxwood Blight, and is caused by fungal pathogen that turns the normally-emerald green leaves of both American and English boxwood varieties brown and dry.

The spread of the disease is now so wide that horticulturalists at Virginia Tech say the blight can no longer be contained — only managed and they fear it could devastate the boxwood population the same way chestnut blight decimated those trees in the 1930s.

They say people buying boxwood plants or clippings can help by making sure their retailers participate in the Boxwood blight cleanliness program.

And gardeners can help by sanitizing their pruning tools with diluted bleach or lysol disinfectant.

Boxwood blight was first reported in the United kingdom in the early 1990s -- and was discovered in the U.S. in North Carolina, Connecticut and Virginia in 2011.

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