Originally created 05/10/04

Agriculture officials on the look out for tree fungus



CHARLESTON, S.C. -- State agriculture officials have put a hold on some ornamental plants shipped from California to test them for a tree-killing fungus.

While there is no evidence the West Coast fungus has entered the oak population in South Carolina, officials say other plants could transmit the incurable bug. Sudden oak death fungus was discovered in California earlier this year.

Ken Glenn, assistant director of the South Carolina Department of Plant Industry, said suspicious samples in the Upstate from camellia and viburnum plants were shipped from Monrovia Nursery and Specialty Plants in California. Those samples are being tested at a U.S. Agriculture Department laboratory in Maryland.

Several states, including South Carolina, banned shipments from the California nursery after the fungus was discovered during a national USDA nursery survey earlier this year.

"The official wave of nursery visits placed the plants on hold," Glenn said. "The diagnostics of those plants is in progress. That procedure is lengthy, and it's taking longer than we prefer. None have come back positive."