Deadly plant virus wipes out Allentown's beloved public rose garden

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WPVI) -- The City of Allentown Parks Department is contending with a deadly plant virus infesting the Allentown Rose Garden along Cedar Creek Parkway.

The department has been forced to remove hundreds and hundreds of the park's rose plants due to the disease called rose rosette.

The rose garden maintenance staff realized something was wrong last August, toward the end of the growing season.

The diagnosis was finally confirmed earlier this year when root and shoot samples were taken from roses and sent to the Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Lab at Oklahoma State University.

On February 25 the city received the results, which showed the samples indeed tested positive for rose rosette disease. Previous tests done by Penn State Plant Disease in January had proven inconclusive.

It's among the first known outbreaks of rose rosette in the area.

The disease is spread by microscopic mites that are small enough to be transported by the wind, and there is currently no known cure.

Any infected plants will be dead within five years.

Rose rosette disease has cropped up in more than 30 states across the country and poses a very real threat to the U.S. rose industry, which generates more than $200 million in annual retail sales.

Officials is Allentown have since planted hundreds of tiny new rose plants with the hope that, with proper care and oversight, they will grow into healthy mature plants, but there is certainly no guarantee.
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