We were hiking at a friend’s place this spring when I noticed that, not uncommonly, the Multiflora Rose in their clearings did not look right.
On many but not all bushes, one or more canes bore leaves that were withered-looking, sometimes red-colored, sometimes green, but definitely odd and much like the “witches broom” condition that is sometimes observed as a disease response in other plants.
I had written hopefully about this plant pathogen back in 2007, but only now had I seen Rose Rosette Disease through my camera lens–a potential solution to the rampant spread of Multiflora Rose.
The pathogen (that is being attributed to a virus, but none has been identified) is transmitted by certain wind-borne mites. The mites live inside the galls we see mostly on elms. We observed these mite galls on my friends property the same day my eyes were opened to the presence of RRD in Floyd County.
And now I am aware of it, I see it everywhere while driving the backroads, some places more than others. Often, once you know to look for it, you’ll see rose bushes that would have been impossible to clear along a fenceline that have totally succumbed, their arching canes brittle and leafless. Makes me giggle.
But this is a mixed blessing: The pathogen also does its work on ornamental roses. So if you’re a rose fancier, you might want to scout your area for the gall mites on your property (or sneak onto your neighbors at night with a flashlight and pair of stout loppers). Truth is, I don’t think there’s much to be done for prevention; destroy diseased roses after the damage is done.
Contrarywise, if MF Rose is a problem on your property, I wonder if “transplanting” gall mite-infested elm branches at just the right point of maturity of the mites could intentionally infect an otherwise uninfected pasture rose plant or group of plants.
So that’s the end of the story–for now–and one in which a problem-invasive at last meets with a natural control to keep it in check. But you know how these “solutions” sometimes turn into problems. So stay tuned!