Rhododendron

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) confirmed Friday that some plants shipped to Rural King stores in West Virginia are being recalled because of the plant disease, Phytophthora ramorum. Rural King stores have agreed to initiate a voluntary recall of rhododendron plants from affected stores.

“If you purchased a rhododendron from Rural King between March and May of this year, you should monitor the plant for signs of disease, including leaf spots and shoot dieback. If you believe you have infected plants, please reach out to the Department,” Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said.

Approximately 110 rhododendron plants from the infected nursery were shipped to West Virginia retailers. Rural King has voluntarily disposed of 38 of the 110 plants. At least 17 other states also received shipments, WVDA officials said.

Plants can be destroyed by burning, deep burial or double bagging the plant with its roots in heavy-duty trash bags for disposal in a landfill. Make sure to sanitize all garden tools with either 10 percent bleach or 70 percent ethanol.

People with any questions about Phytophthora ramorum can contact the WVDA Plant Industries Division at 304-558-2212.

Tim Brown, director of the WVDA’s plant industries division, told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that the disease is found in the western United States.

“That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?” Brown said when asked how to pronounced the disease’s name. “No, it’s not found in the state, but we do surveys for this disease in the state already.”

Shipments of infected plants is one of the common ways Phytophthora ramorum is spread. Plant nurseries in the western United States monitor for the disease. When it was detected in some plants that had been shipped, the “trace forward” information was sent to the WVDA. Some of the plants had been shipped to Rural King stores.

“We’re not saying all the plants were infected,” Brown said.

Some plants in “particular nurseries in particular cultivars “ – plant varieties cultivated by selective breeding – had signs of the disease, he said. Other plants could have been exposed to the disease while they were being shipped.

Some of the plants had been distributed to Rural King and Walmart stores. None of the Walmarts in West Virginia received any of the plants, Brown said.

A limited number of plants that could have been expose were in West Virginia, and “very few” could have reached Bluefield, Brown said. Before the WVDA approached Rural King, the store chain had already had a corporate recall of the plants and had disposed of them in a landfill.

“We want to make sure we’re protecting not only the consumer, but protecting West Virginia forests from diseases, too,” he said.