Long Fight To Save Dogwoods Begins This Summer (230)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — University of Tennessee researchers are set to begin a major battle against a disease that is killing the state’s dogwood trees.

It may take 15 years to see who wins.

Dr. Mark Windham, a University of Tennessee plant pathologist, said UT this summer will distribute tree twigs and buds from dogwood trees that are resistant to dogwood anthracnose to Tennessee nurseries.

State nurseries will graft the buds onto seedlings in an attempt to spread the resistance trait, Windham said. It will take up to 15 years for the trees to mature and even more time to determine if they can live in shady, moist areas of the forest where dogwoods are most susceptible to anthracnose, he said.

“It’s a long-term proposition because you have to deal with generations of trees,” Windham said. “The key will be how resistance is inherited. If seeds from these trees give rise to resistant trees, then it will be a success.

“But sometimes resistance can skip generations. It all depends on the genetics. If it (the resistant gene) skips generations, it may be of no use at all in bringing dogwoods back to some areas.”

Windham’s 1988-1992 study of 28 plots of wild dogwoods found that anthracnose spreads faster over time, killing 3 percent of the trees the first year, 7 percent the second, 18 percent in 1991, and 21 percent in 1992.

Contact: Dr. Mark Windham (423-974-3633)