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Killer plant disease warning.

Byline: Rachael Misstear West Wales Editor rachael.misstear@walesonline.co.uk

IT'S been described as 'Ebola for plants' and now a Welsh horticulturist and biologist has issued a warning of a new killer disease which is affecting plants in Britain.

The new disease, downy mildew of aquilegias, is very virulent and with no chemical control it is killing plants.

Plant Heritage Collection holder Carrie Thomas, of Touchwood Plants in Killay, Swansea, identified the disease with the help of experts from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Members' Advisory Service, and other plant pathologists, including Nigel Stringer at National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Ms Thomas, who holds the only two National Plant Collections of Aquilega in the UK, is warning gardeners about downy mildew ravaging her collection.

She said because there was no published information about the new disease, she has compiled known information onto her website to warn gardeners and help them prevent, identify and cope with infections.

"What is needed is early discovery and measures to control spread once it is found. I hope this will help early identification, and hence slow or minimise spread. This disease is a very virulent. It is a bit like Ebola for plants, it will spread and as yet there is no resistance. We know it's affecting plants in Cardiff and Swansea. My guess is an awful lot of people have it."

Ms Thomas said: "I now see that I had some infected plants at least a year ago, but had no reason to believe that a sickly-looking Aquilegia plant had a virulent infection of any sort, let alone one likely to lead to the death of the plant after efficiently infecting other plants around it, as well as creating the long-term issue of resistant, infective spores in the soil."

Ms Thomas is urging gardeners to email her if they have any signs of the disease, to help build an accurate picture on her website of where it is found in the UK and worldwide. Immediate removal of any plant even suspected of having the disease, may be the only effective solution.

To find out what to look out for, visit http://www.touchwoodplants.

co.uk/aquilegia-downy-mildew.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 13, 2015
Words:364
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