Hosta Virus X epidemic

Discuss Hosta Virus X and share pictures and information on this ever increasing threat to hosta growing.

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Hosta Virus X epidemic

Postby Chris_W » Jul 08, 2004 11:24 am

The spread of Hosta Virus X seems to be reaching epidemic proportions. Here is an update:

I've decided to make this an announcement so that it doesn't get lost.

The number of virused plants that are coming over from Holland is staggering at this point. But it is not isolated to just Dutch plants, as some US wholesale growers have it too.

I can confirm that the following plants have tested positive for HVX either from plants we got or from other results from other people's plants or from other reported results. We have destroyed all plants that either had or were suspected of having the virus here at the nursery and have tested all of our remaining stock of any of these plants.

Undulata Albomarginata
Birchwood Parky's Gold
Gold Standard
Paradise Joyce
El Nino (from 2004, the 2003 plants tested negative)
Sum & Substance
Golden Tiara

This does NOT mean that every plant of these varieties out there carries the virus.

We will be getting every single Dutch plant here tested and will randomly test our own stock, domestic stock, and absolutely anything that looks suspicious.

Hang in there with us :wow:

Original message:

This spring we purchased plant stock of Hosta 'Goldrush' from Darwin Plants, Holland, and several of them came up with a spotted and mottled appearance.

So we put them aside until they could be tested. I sent leaves off to the University of Minnesota and just as I suspected they are infected with HVX.

I spoke with a forum member who knows someone else who received Goldrush from Darwin's and they too showed the mottled appearance, so anyone who has purchased this variety should be on the lookout.

Here is a picture of Hosta 'Goldrush' with HVX.

Since these plants were not ever divided or propagated here at the nursery I am confident that we did not spread it to our own plant stock. Also, whenever I divide plants I disinfect my tools with alcohol both before and after making any cuts. That disinfecting step is getting more and more important with the fast spread of this virus.

I sure hope that these wholesale growers get their act together. If not the government agencies regulating and inspecting them should shut them down, in my opinion :x
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Hosta Virus X epidemic



And here is Sum & Substance with the virus

Postby Chris_W » Jul 08, 2004 11:28 am

We received a batch of Hosta 'Sum & Substance' from Van Bourgendien/Simple Pleasures this spring. Out of 100 plants about a dozen had a slight discoloration along some veins. We never offered these by mail order and as soon as I noticed the problem we pulled them. I don't think we sold any of them, but it is possible :???:

I sent leaf samples to Dr. Lockhart and sure enough, this too is HVX.

Here is a picture of this. We are now going to destroy the entire batch of plants just to be safe.

It may be hard to see but there is a little bit of darker mottling showing along some of the veins.

Again, since we never divided or propagated these plants there is no chance that the virus was spread here.
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Postby hostarod » Jul 08, 2004 11:36 am

Chris, sorry to hear about the virus problems, and thanks for sharing the imformation. I have been working in a few gardens this summer, getting ready for conventions and also local garden tours. I would agree that the problem is getting out of control, as I have seen it quite often this year, I hope that someone will step up and help to stop these plants from being sold. Hostarod
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Postby gljo » Jul 08, 2004 11:58 am

Sorry to hear about your plants, Chris. Just went out and snapped a pic of my Goldrush. I got mine from a reputable (I thought) grower on ebay. I noticed the other day that it didn't look good, but figured it was stress from being shipped. Kinda looks like the virus, doesn't it? Who knows how many more are out there....
Thanks for the warning!
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Postby Chris_W » Jul 08, 2004 12:06 pm

Yes, gljo, that is the virus. And notice that the tag on my picture is the same as your picture, so we both received the plants from Darwin's as that is their tags. It leads me to believe that all of the Hosta 'Goldrush' sold by Darwin Plants had the virus.

Darwin's hasn't responded to me emails and pictures. I'll let you know what they have to say about it when they do.

These growers' fields need to be cleaned up and they need to be more sanitary in their dividing practices!
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Postby Jamie » Jul 08, 2004 12:11 pm

Thanks for the heads up Chris. I've tossed my plant in the burning barrel. This plant was mainly distributed by Darwins, so most of the plants they shipped, are probaly infected.

If anyone has recieved a Gold Rush from a seller on ebay, please PM me.
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Postby Richiegirl » Jul 08, 2004 12:48 pm

It seems your instincts were correct about these plants. A big thank you for being so careful with your stock, for being up-front about the problem, and for sharing photos of the infected plants so we can all see and compare the look of infection for identification purposes with our own plants.

It does seem that the virus is getting out of hand and being spread by a few growers. I am wondering if the Hosta Society can take action(s) to help. Also, once a grower/wholesaler/distributor is identified as having a serious problem, can state and the federal Depts. of Agriculture step in?

For those wanting to send suspicious leaves to be tested, I remind people that we can get ours tested at no charge by Professor Lockhart's plant pathology lab, University of Minnesota. I recently posted a message here on the Forum with the address and instructions on how to send samples. See Hosta Virus X Information from Dr. Lockhart posted June 26th.

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Postby Marietta » Jul 08, 2004 1:33 pm

Chris, thanks for showing us what to look for in our hostas.
After the daylily rust problem, this is just too much. Does
this mean that I should not add any new hostas this year
or next? I can't face losing any of my friends - hostas.
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Postby Robin » Jul 08, 2004 2:54 pm

Well there is some good news, well almost good.

I picked up one of the Tri-B tags off Wal-mart's floor, and tracked them down on the net. (Tri-B tags have been in all of those ill hostas a the local box stores)

I gave them a call, to see what they had to say about the virus. Much to my surprise they were very nice! They said that the had sent samples to their state (OK) but heard nothing back so I passed on the info about Dr. Ben Lockhart.

It sounded like they just might have their hostas tested.

Well it's only a month until the Hallson Get togather, think I can hold off the shopping til then.
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Postby Blackkat » Jul 08, 2004 3:08 pm

Robin, that's great that you did something. I'm leaving for one of the local garden centers today where I saw some blue spotted Sun Power hostas last week. It is as I feared when this started, the virus is spreading fast. Wholesale growers are apparently not looking too closely for it or they don't care. Making matters worse, if it doesn't kill a hosta, then it is all the more likely that infected hosta in yards everywhere will eventually be divided and shared between friends and neighbors.
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Postby nmb » Jul 08, 2004 3:43 pm

Well, I guess, the worst has happened, we have and infected supplier. Since the affects are most apparent on the lighter hostas, do you have any suggestions on how to protect ourselves with the darker colored plants?
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Postby FreakyCola » Jul 08, 2004 4:14 pm

Chris, is there anything we can do about this? Who do we call or write to to complain about the sellers who won't take these infected plants off their shelves?

I've seen plants like this at Lowes, different Walmarts and a couple local nurseries. When I complain, they look at me like I'm nuts, except Lowes did refund my money when I took a Sum & Substance back. I stupidly thought it was a sport, then realized later it was infected. The lady was very nice & agreed it was sick, however, when I went back a week or so later there were still more on the shelf.

So who do we complain to???? Our congressmen? I'm sure this will be a vital issue for them! :roll:
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Postby Chris_W » Jul 08, 2004 4:33 pm

The first thing to remember is that it is not easy to spread the infection. From what I've read and heard you can't just get it from having an infected hosta in your garden or even by having one hosta touch another hosta. You would have to physically divide the plant and then turn right around and cut into a healthy plant using the same tool without sterilizing it. I'm positive that is how it is getting spread throughout these suppliers' fields - workers are cutting up and harvesting hundreds of plants, probably using the same tool over and over.

I read that after you remove a virused hosta from your garden it is safe to replant a new hosta there since the virus can't survive outside the hosta cell wall. It won't be in the soil and as soon as any residual roots start to die, so will the virus.

The main thing to protect yourself would be to first not divide any new hostas right out of the pot until you are sure it is growing good and doesn't show any signs of the virus. Dark leaved hostas will still show some spots or marks, just differently from the lighter colors.

The second thing, and probably the best thing, would be for everyone to go out and buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol or bleach. Periodically clean your tools, trimmers, scissors, trowels, knives, etc. with the alcohol. When dividing hostas clean your tools before and after dividing each plant. If all of our tools are cleaned like this the chance of spreading this disease would drop down close to zero.

Another thing is to ask your suppliers if they are aware of the virus and if they know what it looks like. Education is a huge step towards prevention.

Finally, we might want to contact the US Dept of Agriculture, our local agriculture departments, or our local extension agencies. Tell them about how much we've been seeing the virus, about how some of the largest wholesalers in the world are selling virused plants, and how it is showing up on store shelves. They might not yet realize how many plants are being sold like this.

I hope that helps to aleviate some of the fears. Like I've said, since learing about HVX a couple years ago we have been very diligent about watching for it and about cleaning tools before dividing anything. I knew it would only be time before we would see it, but was ready for it. Now that we've seen it we will be holding absolutely everything for at least a season before selling it to make sure it is virus free. We will also do random testing, especially on plants from these suppliers. I'll let you know how it all turns out and keep you posted.
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Postby hagranger » Jul 08, 2004 4:35 pm

I am upset by what this means for small growers and collectors ... the money that a grower has to shell out and then lose (hopefully there is some type of renumeration but not always) ... not to mention the threat to the remainder of the grower's stock.
And a collector has his/her entire colelction threatened by this ...
Thanks for the heads up Chris.
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Postby Chris_W » Jul 08, 2004 4:37 pm

And I hate to scare you all any more.... Here is yet another example of HVX. These plants were received here from Van Bloem Gardens (Superior Plant and Bulb) via an unknown US grower. It is Hosta 'Golden Tiara'. Instead of displaying a mottled look it was more of a spotted look. When I contacted them they said that they were aware of the problem as someone else contacted them already. If they knew then why didn't they contact us sooner?

Once again we have destroyed the plants.
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Postby Denise_in_MI » Jul 08, 2004 5:32 pm

Thank you Chris for the info and photos...

With that, don't make the mistake that I did telling Frank's Nursery and Crafts that some of their hosta's MAY be virused.

I guess that this is part of the learning process also...

Luckily, I didn't go off on a rampage that their hosta's are virused. I simply stated to the manager at my local Frank's that their Gold Standard's MAY be virused. They were an odd looking bunch of hosta's by a reputable nursery that they purchase many plants from. That nursery (I won't mention their name) flew in an expert and sent samples to check for Hosta Virus X. Their results came back as negative. Not only that...they sent me on a field trip, at no cost to me, (with a scientist) to show me what a virused hosta looks like. I learned a couple of things:

Mottled in color ONLY, does not indicate a virus. Look for mottled in color PLUS puckering where the change in color occurs.

I learned that Gold Standard is notorious for taking on a changing or mottled appearance from near all green to a green with a yellow or white center appearance due to light levels. Some spotting may occur due to a rapid change in light levels...but, look closely, does the color change appear as fading or puckering? Blotched fading is OK (like can be seen in Paradise Joyce). But blotched fading with puckering in a young Gold Standard MAY indicate a virus. Stay away from it. He even mentioned, staying away from Gold Standard in general for any collector since there are many virused specimen's available -- he said that the general population loves GS because of it's changing look and can be grown from sun to shade. For the collector, he said when in doubt, stay away from Gold Standard.

I even asked, how can you tell if a hosta is in an infantile stage vs. an adult hosta. He couldn't express it in laymens terms to me. He said, that a person with hosta experience would, 'just know'.

So...since I own Gold Standard that doesn't appear to be virused...and I look closely at my other hosta's frequently. I think that I am virus free. (I hope.)
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Postby Pandora » Jul 08, 2004 5:38 pm

Chris, I am so sorry that you had to destroy all those plants. Thank you very much for such a good warning and prevention to all the rest of us.
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Postby keith_novascotia » Jul 08, 2004 7:10 pm

question. If a plant has the virus and you soak it in an amonia solution does it kill the virus and will the plant come up fine the next year?
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Postby leafmould » Jul 08, 2004 8:25 pm

Chris, I am seeing virused plants everywhere here.
Walmart is discounting them for a quick sale :eek:
lots of sick 'Golden Tiara' and I'm also seeing a lot of 'Blue Cadet' with very suspicious markings..shut them down :x
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Postby roni » Jul 08, 2004 9:24 pm

Well, I just purchased a diseased S& S from Lowes today, I thought it may have been mislabeled and was a June or GS. After reading this thread and seeing the pictures, I realize it was correctly labeled and badly diseased. Actually, it is very attractive, puckered and streaked.

So, how should I dispose of it? I mean physically, just toss it in the mulch bed? Will it live and spread to other plants and varieties? Soak it in bleach, burn it as someone mentioned? Wrap it up and send it to the landfill?

I doubt that returning it will make a difference, I suppose that I will get my money back if I make a 1/2 hour trip, but will it make a difference to Lowe's and how they watch their plants? I don't think so. I've dealt with them before on policy problems and it didn't make one bit of a difference even though I got my money back and even a gift certificate to appease me.

I also purchased a f. aurermarginata that was very streaked on three out of about 8 leaves, but not puckered. If it isn't puckered, does that mean it is not virused and is probably a sport or almost a sport?

This has got me going around in circles. No more cheap hostas for me.

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