Since its identification in 1941, Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) has slowly made its way across the country. Now it’s a national epidemic; moreover, the highest concentration of this insidious disease is the upper South, aka our own North Fulton backyards.

RRD is basically uncontrollable and deadly to rose bushes of all types. Unchecked, it can spread throughout a neighborhood and beyond. While it’s good to be aware of the problem, that’s not enough. Horticulturalists declare that without action and, yes, even activism rose “delight” will turn to rose “despair” in the coming decades.

As rose bushes begin to grow actively this spring, look for these symptoms:
· Reddish-purple vein mosaic pattern on leaves
· Bright red foliage that never turns green
· Excessive thorns
· Tiny, tight clusters of buds called a “witches’ broom”

If part of your rose bush looks deformed, there’s a good chance it’s infected.

RRD is caused by a virus which requires a minuscule mite to transfer the disease. These mites are so tiny, they literally are “blowin’ in the wind.” Besides being wind-borne, the mites can be transferred to another rose via an animal or a person—think walking your dog around the neighborhood. They can also be transferred by tools or leaf blowers. Once the mites get situated in a new feeding ground/plant, they transfer the virus to the vascular system of the plant, and infection ensues.

Be vigilant. If you suspect RRD, send pictures of an affected plant to roserosette.org/reporting. Experts will provide a diagnosis, and you’ll be part of ongoing research about this widespread disease.

Since the virus is deadly, the treatment is severe. Pruning is not an effective defense. Experts recommend covering the affected bush w/a garbage bag, securing it, then digging up the root ball. The entire plant must be thrown in the garbage can. Do not replant the area with roses. Replace the plant with another specimen that will thrive in a sunny location.

Become an RRD activist. Spread the word—not the disease.

Note: The image for this article is from Raghuwinder Singh, Mark Wilson, and Allen D. Owen’s article Rose Rosette Disease – Identification and Management posted on LSU’s AG Center website.