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A Thorny Infection Attacks North Texas Rosebushes

John Hartman, Univ. of Kentucky,
Excessive thorn growth on a plant infected by Rose Rosette

Prized rosebushes in North Texas are at risk from an infection called ‘Rose Rosette.’ The disease is incurable and has already cost Southlake about a half-million dollars. Steve Huddleston is the senior horticulturist for the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and he joins KERA's Justin Martin for a look into ‘Rose Rosette.’

What is 'Rose Rosette'

"Rose Rosette is a disease caused by a virus. It's spread by this mite that feeds on infected rosebushes and then transmits the virus to healthy rosebushes. If the mite doesn't crawl there himself, he can be borne along by the wind."



"This disease really causes a mutation of growth, there are several symptoms..."

  • Elongated shoots
  • Red or yellow leaf distortion
  • Shoots and foliage have an abnormal red color
  • Stems appear thick and succulent and/or have an overabundance of thorns
  • New growth may have many branches that create a witch’s broom 
  • Deformed buds and flowers
  • Abnormal flower color

Where 'Rose Rosette' came from


"It's been here (Texas) for a good two or three years maybe four years.  It was first recognized in the Rocky Mountains back in the early 40s - but it has taken that long to come to the Metroplex and it is here in full force. It's been in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, even Missouri."


What to do with an infected rosebush


"There is no cure for this disease. So what we encourage people to do is to take a large bag (perhaps one of those lawn bags) put it over the bush so you're covering the roses, and you dig up the rosebush roots and all - and get rid of it. Throw it in the trash, don't compost it, send it to the landfill."

  • Cover infected bushes with a trash bag
  • Remove infected bushes (roots and all)
  • Don't compost -  send bag to landfill
Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.