- Rosette disease takes out roses at Woodway arboretum, a growing issue locally
- 3-county summer bounty nets more than 1,000 feral hogs in Central Texas
Rosette disease takes out roses at Woodway arboretum, a growing issue locally
By MIKE COPELAND firstname.lastname@example.org
Roses are dying all over McLennan County, felled by an incurable disease that kills slowly but surely. Dubbed “Witches Broom” because it spawns gnarly, thorn-choked stems, it has invaded Texas with a vengeance after laying waste to rose bushes from the East Coast to California.
Officially called rose rosette, its latest victim is the Carleen Bright Arboretum, a 16-acre showplace and botanical garden at 9001 Bosque Blvd. in Woodway, a setting popular with wedding planners, photographers and nature enthusiasts captivated by its beauty and tranquility.
Little did users know that a life-and-death struggle had been raging.
“We discovered the damage three weeks to a month ago. We suspected rose rosette, and Mark Barnett, one of our local master gardeners, came out and affirmed what we feared,” arboretum director Janet Schaffer said. “We had to take out 30 to 40 roses, emptying one of our beds entirely.”
A crew dug up the sickly roses and wrapped them in plastic, careful not to disturb nearby plants. Experts said tiny mites that can be carried by the breeze or which “hop aboard” other critters are culpable in the spread of rose rosette.
“We will have to wait another year to plant roses in that area,” Schaffer said.
She enlisted help from the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service and has been contacted by the Texas A&M Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab.
Maddi Shires, an A&M doctoral student studying plant pathology, visited McLennan County on fact-finding missions related to rose rosette, she said. Samples taken at 10 sites between West Waco and Woodway tested positive for the virus, and she heard concerns about the arboretum, Shires said.
“I would say rose rosette is prominent in Waco, and up and down Interstate 35,” Shires said. “This year it has been confirmed in Travis County, including the Austin area, in San Antonio, Houston and in Lubbock County.”
Fortunately, the East Texas community of Tyler, which calls itself “The Rose Capital of America,” has escaped the plague relatively unscathed. Roses remain a tourist attraction and source of pride for the city, which hosts an annual rose festival, crowns a Tyler Rose Queen and maintains a rose museum and community garden that attract visitors from around the country, said Jose Parga, a 28-year employee of Tyler’s parks department and a superintendent at Tyler Rose Garden.
“We have been fortunate not to have that problem over here yet,” Parga said. “I’ve attended conferences where people talked about their communities being hit pretty hard, Frisco and Plano to name a couple.”
He oversees an aggressive spraying program to eliminate pests that attack Tyler’s roses and said that approach may play a role.
“I stay in touch with most of the local nurseries, and they tell me the same thing, that they have not been hurt by rose rosette,” Parga said.
The city has not been completely immune but has responded quickly when cases arise, Shires said.
“Tyler has had a few reports here and there, have had a couple of plants removed, but the city stays on top of the situation,” she said.
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden tells a different story.
“The problem started back in 2013, and we were hit hard,” said Jeff Myers, who oversees rose production at the complex. “We had a collection of 2,000 roses, and we had to remove all of them due to rose rosette.”
The garden has just started planting 350 roses, Myers said.
The threat of rose rosette has been slowly but steadily growing in Central Texas, said Barnett, the McLennan County Master Gardener.
“It showed up first in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and diseased plants were either sold or brought to this area,” he said. “It has been around nationally about 40 years, and there was a time in Texas, and especially in this part of the state, when we saw little or nothing about rose rosette. But that is changing. Every year the situation gets worse. Our company (Picture Perfect Lawn and Landscape) has a maintenance division, and more and more we are seeing homeowners who have lost all their roses to the disease, as have others on their block.”
He said the problem is “pretty widespread,” and there have been outbreaks in China Spring, Woodway and northwest Waco. He said the Whataburger restaurant on West Loop 340, across Waco Drive from Richland Mall, has seen its roses attacked by rose rosette, as has a decorative rose bed near the entrance to a park owned by the Waco Industrial Foundation in southwest Waco.
“There is no cure or treatment for it. Preventive measures include spraying to keep insects under control,” Barnett said. “Dig up any affected rose, bag it up and dispose of it in a landfill so there will be no exposure to other plants. It could take several weeks to several months for the entire root system to die.”
The “witches broom” moniker is applied because rose bushes suffering from the disease often sprout flimsy stems covered with thorns, he said.
The popular Knock Out rose varieties are among the most susceptible to the virus while Belinda’s Dream roses seems most resilient, Barnett said.
“But no particular variety has been declared immune,” he said.
Barbara Vance, a 22-year McLennan County Master Gardener who lives in the Windmill Hill subdivision near Lake Waco, battles the disease at home.
“One of my 30, one actually died before I was sure it had rose rosette,” Vance said. “I’m pretty sure six others have it, but I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. Frankly, I didn’t want to prune them in the spring. They don’t look as good as they once did, but they aren’t dying, don’t look terrible. I’m very careful when I work around them, keep my tools clean. I have a large yard, with nobody really living nearby, so the virus moving elsewhere is less of a threat.”
Elizabeth Milam, another Master Gardener, said she watched helplessly as rose rosette devastated roses she loved enough to give special names.
“They were nice, big, healthy bushes, and then they weren’t. It was like losing a friend,” Milam said. “The mites that spread the virus aren’t very choosy. Wherever they land is where they do their dirty work.”
Symptoms of rose rosette may remain dormant up to two years before announcing their presence, Shires said. Anyone with concerns about the disease may ship cuttings of symptomatic tissue to the Texas A&M Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis, she said. Instructions are available at plantclinic.tamu.edu.
Cost for the diagnostic services is $55 per sample, Shires said.
She said uprooted rose bushes should not be burned, joining others in suggesting they be wrapped securely and hauled to a landfill. She also said it is best not to delay removal of roses with confirmed rose rosette.
Horticulturalist Neil Sperry addressed the rose rosette issue in a column that ran in the Tribune-Herald in April.
“It’s been known to exist for decades,” according to a post on his website. “However, for whatever the reasons, it has proliferated in DFW and elsewhere in Texas over the past several years. Tens of thousands of roses have been afflicted, and at present there seems to be no prevention or remedy for it.”
Rose breeders are collaborating with laboratories in pursuit of genetically engineered resistance to rose rosette, and the nursery industry has invested millions of dollars into research, according to the post.
3-county summer bounty nets more than 1,000 feral hogs in Central Texas
By S. M. Chavey
Hunters harvested more than 1,000 feral hogs this summer in Central Texas when three counties implemented bounty programs.
Caldwell County raked in the highest number of hogs: 727. Guadalupe County came in second with 300, and Hays County brought in 12.
Texas is home to an estimated 3 million feral hogs, which wreak havoc on parts of the environment, contaminating waterways and causing financial loss to agricultural production, according to a news release from The Meadows Center for Water and Environment, which partnered with counties for the summer. The bounty program was intended to reduce that number.
The bounties began mid-July and finished at the end of August. Bounty hunters were required to turn in tails in order to obtain the $5 per hog.
Though the counties did not harvest as many feral hogs as they had appropriated money for — Guadalupe and Hays counties both had about $10,000 to pay out — organizers said they were generally happy with the success of the program, especially considering the short timeframe during a difficult part of the year for hunting.
The counties had used a combination of county money and grants from the Texas A&M Agrilife Service for feral hog control. Additional funds will be used to purchase 10 to 15 trapping kits to distribute to local landowners and ranch managers, according to Watershed Services Program Coordinator for The Meadows Center Nick Dornak.
Program organizers also plans to purchase a drone for surveying and feral hog management efforts in the future by partner counties, Dornak said.
Organizers said the possibility of future bounty programs depends on funding.
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