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Sudden Oak Death Detected in New Jersey

For Immediate Release: May 28, 2004


Hope Gruzlovic




(TRENTON) – New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus today announced the first detection of Phytophthora ramorum -- commonly known as “Sudden Oak Death” -- in New Jersey. One lilac bush at a Cape May County nursery tested positive for the disease, out of more than 2,100 plants tested in 13 counties. The finding was part a statewide surveillance program for the disease since mid-March by the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Phytophthora ramorum is a serious fungal pathogen that affects certain trees and shrubs, such as oak and bonsai trees, lilacs, rhododendrons, and azaleas. In California since 1995, the fungus has killed tens of thousands of tanoaks, coast live oaks and California black oaks. Most plants experience leaf spots or twig dieback, but red and black oak trees are particularly susceptible under laboratory conditions.

“We are concerned about the potential impact of this disease in New Jersey’s forests and landscapes since it is unknown how the disease would develop on the east coast,” said Secretary Kuperus. “We are following the USDA protocol in following up on the detection to ensure the disease does not spread.”

Sudden Oak Death became a concern in New Jersey when it was learned that large wholesale and mail order nurseries in California infected with the disease had shipped suspect plants to the state in 2003. Fact sheets were mailed to New Jersey residents who received potentially infected plant material from the mail order nursery in California, along with information on steps homeowners should take to dispose of dead plant material. The Department also mailed advisory letters containing a U.S. Forest Service color fact sheet on Sudden Oak Death to nearly 1,900 nurseries and garden centers throughout the state to alert nursery owners to the symptoms of Sudden Oak Death.

“Consumers should continue their normal spring planting of trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials,” said Secretary Kuperus. “Only one out of 40 samples taken at the affected nursery tested positive for the disease. The Department is working with USDA, Rutgers, and the nursery industry and will continue our statewide surveillance.”

The Cape May County nursery where the infected lilac bush was discovered had received six plants fromt he California lot. However, those six plants had long been sold before New Jersey's testing program began.

All susceptible host plants at the Cape May County nursery have been pulled off the market until they can be tested further. Plants in the lot where the diseased lilac was found will be destroyed. Other plants tested in the lot came back negative for P. ramorum. Plants inside the nursery, as well as the perimeter area outside of the nursery will be tested.

For more information, residents can contact their local county agricultural agent, or the state Department of Agriculture at (609) 292-8896. They also may visit the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Website at http://www.rce.rutgers.edu/sod or the USDA Website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/ispm/sod/.