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Beautification board, public works dealing with dying Knockout roses

MADISON – Knockout roses, Madison’s original signature plant, are bowing out ungracefully from their title.

A tiny mite called an eriophyid feeds on the roses and then travels on the wind to other roses, spreading the disease, Rose Berry said.
A tiny mite called an eriophyid feeds on the roses and then travels on the wind to other roses, spreading the disease, Rose Berry said.

Knockout roses are all dying due to rose rosette virus. Madison Beautification and Tree Board is coordinating the removal of all roses. Board members first realized the roses were sick in 2010 and searched for a treatment.

Members consulted Dr. James Jacobi, specialist for commercial horticulture with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, who said a cure or treatment does not exist.

“When the roses were first planted, they made a beautiful statement for Madison,” Master Gardener Rose Berry said. “We’d hoped to have Madison declared a rose city.” Madison’s public works department assisted the board in planting hundreds of roses.

“We thought we’d found the perfect signature plant the city could use to foster events, like Run through the Roses when the roses were flush with blooms. It’s sad to see the roses removed,” Berry said.

Luckily, one stand of roses does remain healthy at the Hughes and Mill roads intersection.

A tiny mite called an eriophyid feeds on the roses and then travels on the wind to other roses, spreading the disease. “As the disease is systemic, once the rose is infected, it is virtually impossible to treat,” Berry said.

Infected roses resemble a witch’s broom appearance. An overabundance of thorns grows and looks like a bristle brush.

“A diseased rose has to be taken up and disposed of in a plastic bag so it can’t infect other roses,” Berry said. “You can’t plant a rose in that spot for seven years.”

In October, board members tagged infected roses across the city for removal. “Public works is still working on that now,” Berry said.

What new shrub or flower will replace Knockouts as Madison’s signature plant? “The beautification board has begun to look for a new signature plant, or plants. That’s in the works now,” Berry said.

For more information, call beautification board president Karen Dugard-Lawler at 256-604-8918 or email to master gardeners Gigi Bulman at gigimb54@gmail.net or Berry at roseb@knology.net.

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