Boxwood blight harming Piedmont hedges

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A fungus has made its way to North Carolina, which is threatening popular plants; boxwoods.

Boxwoods can be found in almost every neighborhood. They're green year-round and easy to maintain. Most of the time boxwoods are trimmed as hedges and line driveways and homes.

The fungus, called boxwood blight, popped up in Great Britain in the 1990s.

"And then into New York in the year 2000, and it's worked its way down as far south as North Carolina," said Scott Welborn, horticulture agent for Forsyth County. "The boxwood blight is 100 percent detrimental to boxwoods; it will kill them completely."

The boxwood blight has been found in the Buena Vista area of Winston-Salem, as well as in Surry County and in the mountains up to Virginia. The Buena Vista outbreak was contained, but experts fear that people bringing in new plants may restart the trend.

The tell-tale signs of boxwood blight are dark lesions on the leaves. Most of the time, it will turn the bottom half of the leaf completely brown.

"If you think you have it, look at the stems, because you'll see actually dark streaks in your stems," said Welborn.

The spores of the fungus are heavy and don't travel well through the air. Most of the time, they're spread by homeowners or landscapers who brush against the boxwoods.

"If you have a confirmed problem, removal, burning, or burying the boxwoods is the only way to take care of it," said Welborn.

If you do come in contact with the boxwood blight, you're urged to wash your hands and clothes immediately.

You can protect your plants by spraying them with fungicide, which can be found at any home improvement store. It won't cure the plants, but can prevent them from getting the boxwood blight.

If you believe your plants may have boxwood blight, you can cut four stems off of the plants, about 6-8 inches long. Double bag and seal them, then bring them to the Forsyth County Cooperative Extension offices at 1450 Fairchild Road in Winston-Salem. The samples will then be sent to NC State for testing.

Experts say to dispose of the infected boxwoods do not mix them with other yard waste. The boxwood waste can be brought to the Hanes Mill Road Landfill, not the Overdale and Forum 52 yard waste facilities.