Scientists monitor for oak pathogen

By Peter Kent

A plant disease potentially as devastating as chestnut blight threatens Southeastern forests. Clemson University scientists andregulatory agents are monitoring nurseries, landscapes, and forests in SouthCarolina for Phytophthora ramorum, afungus-like organism that causes sudden oak death.

The pathogen has killed thousands of oaks and associated plant species in the coastal forests of California and southwest Oregon as well as many ornamental plants in Europe.

“It’s not a question of if the disease will come to theSoutheast, it’s when,” said Steve Jeffers, Clemson plant pathologist and leader of the monitoring effort. “P. ramorum could cause the deaths of many trees throughout the Smokey Mountain region.”

Researchers have found the pathogen in plants at two nurseries in Georgia, likely as a result of shipments from the West Coast. Sudden oak death was first observed in the U.S. in 1995 in California.

The pathogen spreads easily through nursery plants, as well as forest shrubs and trees, which are hosts for the disease.These include many popular Southern plants, such as camellias, rhododendrons, mountain laurels, viburnums, and andromeda.

For information: Steve Jeffers, 864-656-7157,