by Roger “Doc” Stalker, El Paso Master Gardener
You may have read about a fatal viral disease devastating individual rose bushes and rose gardens in many parts of the United States, including several Texas counties. At present, as ongoing research continues, only an extremely small percentage of roses are thought to possibly be resistant to Rose Rosette Disease (RRD).
RRD was first observed in the United States during the early 1940s. Abnormal growth in the various parts of the rose create RRD symptoms like malformed leaves and flowers, “witches’ brooms”, excessive thorniness, and enlarged canes.
For nearly seventy years little was known for certain about the causal agent or how the disease is transmitted. In 2011 research determined RRD is caused by the appropriately named Rose Rosette Virus (RRV) and vectored, or carried, by a tiny eriophyid mite (Phyllocoptes fructiphilus). This mite is so small it travels on wind currents, insects, and wildlife to feed on and infect other roses. If rose bushes are touching, the mite can crawl onto the adjacent bushes, and may also hitch a ride on animals, clothing, garden equipment or even insects that visit infested roses.
For those of us who grow roses or enjoy receiving them on special occasions, reports in April 2019 that RRD had been found within 300 miles of the El Paso County line was a cause for alarm. The rose disease was found in Midland and Odessa, Texas.
Because there is no known treatment or cure, roses infected with the RRV will die within three to five years. During that period, the infected roses serve as hosts for the virus. Eriophyid mites landing and feeding on infected roses become vectors of RRD and capable of spreading the disease to other roses. Early detection of RRD and the complete removal of symptomatic roses, including the roots, so far has proven to be the most successful management practice for controlling the spread of RRD.
Before panicking over the possibility of perhaps losing a beloved rose bush to RRD, please keep reading:
- To date, RRD has NOT been reported in El Paso County or New Mexico.
- RRD might not reach El Paso County, but there is no guarantee that it won’t.
- Gardeners should scout roses for signs of possible RRV infection when purchasing new roses and on roses in their landscape.
- If you discover possible RRD symptoms, call the El Paso County office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (915) 771-2354.
- For more information on RRD research, management recommendations, and symptoms to look for when scouting for RRD click on the following links:
- Early Detection of Rose Rosette Disease (University of Tennessee)
- Rose Rosette (symptoms, control & reporting–University of Georgia)
- Facebook | Combating Rose Rosette
- Rose Rosette Update (video by Oklahoma State University–Oklahoma Gardening)
- Rose Rosette Disease