Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Phytophthora ramorum host species disappear; Invasive agents suspected but not found

I wonder, did I scoop Jenn, over at Invasive Species Weblog?

Pensacola News Journal, September 10, 2007
200 camelia plants are missing

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today
is seeking the public's help in locating more than 200 camellia plants.

The plants are missing from Esposito's Garden Nursery Inc., in Tallahassee, where the plants were being held under quarantine. The plants were infected with or exposed to Phytophthora ramorum, or sudden oak death, a serious fungal disease that may be deadly to certain oaks and other hardwoods, and also adversely affects other plants including camellias, azaleas and viburnums.

Unlawful movement of quarantined plants is a violation of Section 581.101 of the Florida Statutes.

The plants were placed under quarantine after a January survey at Esposito's determined that camellias were showing symptoms of sudden oak death. Samples were submitted to the Department's Gainesville laboratory and were confirmed positive for sudden oak death. At that time, approximately 964 host plants were identified for destruction or quarantine for a minimum of 90 days.

In February, 406 of these plants, including all the known positives, were destroyed and the remaining 558 host plants, that at the time showed no signs of disease, were allowed to be moved to Esposito's wholesale nursery located in Havana, Florida, for the remainder of the quarantine period.

In March, during a subsequent survey at the Havana facility, some of the plants being held in quarantine showed signs of sudden oak death. Samples were analyzed and found to be positive for sudden oak death.

On April 5, the Department returned to conduct destruction of the remaining 558 plants and found that approximately 206 of the quarantined plants were missing.

On April 10, the Department requested an explanation of the whereabouts of the missing plants and gave the owner until April 12 to respond.

On April 11, the owner of Esposito's Garden Center reported to the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office in Quincy, Florida, that the quarantined plants had been stolen around March 30. Esposito's owner had not contacted the Department to report the missing quarantined plants which is a requirement of Section 581.101, F.S., which addresses the unlawful movement of quarantined plant material. A state and federal investigation into the matter was initiated.

In August, a report by state and federal agriculture officials was received and, as a result of the investigation, a notice of violation has been issued by the state to Esposito's Nursery Inc., along with an administrative complaint and $5,000 fine.

Sudden oak death presents a real and ongoing threat to Florida's agricultural industry, environment and economy. Movement of nursery stock is a recognized channel for the spread of sudden oak death from established areas to new locations, creating a situation of great concern for the state. Sudden oak death was first detected in Esposito's Garden Center and five other nurseries in North Florida in 2004 when infected plant material from California was identified by Department nursery plant inspectors. All known infections were eradicated.

Esposito's Garden Center records do not provide information on where the missing plants were distributed. If they were stolen as they have indicated, chances of locating the plants are extremely low.

The Department, along with the USDA, is drawing on all resources to prevent the establishment of sudden oak death in Florida, and therefore locating these missing plants is a priority. The camellia plants were removed from the Havana facility in late March or early April. The camellia plants were in three-gallon pots. Varieties included hiemalis, hybrids, japonica, sasanqua, and vernalis.

If anyone has information about these missing plants, please contact the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office or the Department's Division of Plant Industry helpline at 1-888-397-1517.

The public can also play a vital role in identifying suspected sudden oak death infestations by being on the lookout for sudden oak death symptoms in their yards or other natural areas of the state.

For more information on sudden oak death, visit http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/pathology/sod.html or call

1 comment:

Jennifer Forman Orth said...

Yes! :-)

I was deep into some thinking about vetiver grass in New Orleans and then new stories came out and the SOD story got away from me. It's well done here, of course.