The Kansas Department of Agriculture’s plant protection and weed control program has confirmed the presence of a plant disease in hundreds of rhododendrons sold at large retail stores in Kansas. Sudden Oak Death (SOD) is a plant disease that has killed large tracts of oaks and other native species in California and Oregon, and infected rhododendrons have been identified in 10 states in the Midwest, including Kansas. The infected plants that have been found in the Midwest have all been traced back to a common source. The causal agent of SOD has been detected in rhododendrons originating from Park Hill Plants nursery in Oklahoma, and plants from that nursery were shipped to Walmart and some Home Depot stores across Kansas, which have since worked to destroy all infected and potentially-infected rhododendrons. There is no treatment, and infected plants should be destroyed to prevent spread. Consumers who purchased rhododendrons in April, May or so far this month in varieties that have been determined to be infected should take action to dispose of the plants immediately to prevent further spread of the disease. Plants can be destroyed by burning on site, deep burial, or by double bagging in heavy duty trash bags (including the root ball) and disposing into a sanitary landfill. Other varieties of plant species may be infected as well. Symptoms of SOD include leaf spots, browning and wilting of leaves, and brown to black discoloration on stems and/or trunks. If you observe symptoms, or are uncertain of the variety of your rhododendron, contact your local K-State Research and Extension office for assistance.
Sudden Oak Death has not shown to be a health risk to humans or animals, even if nuts, fruit, leaves or berries from an infected plant are eaten. For additional information about SOD, see www.suddenoakdeath.org.