* These photos of Rose Rosette Disease on a Multiflora rose were taken this morning alongside the Greenway behind The Ensworth School on 100 Highway, Nashville, Tennessee. Not a quarter mile away, in front of the school is a mass planting of Knockout roses, and within a mile are suburbs filled with modest condos and with pricey McMansions, also heavily planted with the best selling plant in this country.
Perhaps 15 years ago I had an old fashioned rose called “Russelliana”. It came from a nursery in Texas and was healthy. Then one day, when it had grown straggly from too much shade, I found a peculiar, deformed cane that looked like a witch’s broom. The rose was infected with rose rosette disease, a fatal virus spread by mites. I dug up the rose and sent it to the landfill. I never saw it on any other of my rose bushes, once a collection of over 200 plants diminished by shade to a handful.
I can remember driving out Highway 100 toward the Loveless Motel ten or fifteen years ago and seeing an old red rambler on a fence and a scraggly pink polyantha near a driveway, and no other roses anywhere. People did not landscape with roses in those days. One might inherit a few puny canes of an old Tropicana rose or a Dorothy Perkins, but roses were considered too much trouble. In Southern parlance-no one wanted “to fool with them”.
There might have been a collection of Hybrid teas in a rosarian’s garden. An enthusiast might have planted some antiques and Hybrid Musks in their cottage garden. There was nothing like the bed after bed of Knockout roses we now see even in the Publix supermarket parking lot.
Today the mites that spread the virus need not drift miles to find another rose to infect. They just need to drift across the street. Our over planting is feeding a plague.
And one cannot just blame the mite, for it appears that something worse may be to blame.
The deliberate spreading of this disease as a biological control for the Multiflora Rose . This is called “Integrated Pest Management” ,and has been promoted by agricultural extension services.
Charon’s boat is always full of those who meant well.
In military and political circles they would call this “Blowback”.