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The RHS warns against rose virus

Published on 12th January 2019

Roses are probably one of the most well known and popular plants, not just in the UK, but the entire world. With millions sold both as cut flowers and pots, roses are everywhere. They are your go-to flowers on Valentine’s Day, the national flower of England and generally an aesthetic and fragrant addition to any garden.

It would, therefore, be obvious why we would try to protect this precious flower from diseases and viruses. However, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), rose viruses in the UK haven’t been studied since the 1980s.

That is why the Society is now funding new research projects and looking into emerging threats, such as the Rose Rosette virus.

The Rose Rosette, also known as witcher’s broom, is caused by a virus that is spread by a tiny, eriophyid mite, and it has been widely reported in the United States and Canada.

The virus distorts the plant's natural growth pattern which eventually leads to the death of the infected rose.

PhD researcher, Ines Vazquez Iglesias, will analyse hundreds of samples from RHS collections, gardens and nurseries across the UK. Results will be published in 2019.

Nicola Spence, Defra Chief Plant Health Officer, said: “Rose rosette virus is not present in the UK and we are continuously working to ensure that foreign threats are kept away. However, we also need to better understand the threat they pose and this research by Newcastle University will provide essential intelligence on how to tackle these emerging pests and diseases.”

Symptoms of the disease start with a red pigmentation of the underside of leaf veins. This is immediately followed by increased growth of vegetative shoots, which are typically more succulent than normal and coloured in various shades of red. As the disease progresses, leaves become very small, petioles are shortened, and most lateral buds grow, producing short, intensely red shoots.

To avoid any kind of threat of the virus, Ms Spence urges everyone to “source their plants from reputable nurseries and to remain vigilant for threats by practising good biosecurity.”

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