AUGUSTA (AP) – State officials have issued a warning about a plant disease that has been detected in Maine on a lilac bush that was shipped from the West Coast.

The shrub tested positive for a disease known as Sudden Oak Death, said state horticulturist Ann Gibbs. There are concerns because the disease killed tens of thousands of oak trees in California in the 1990s.

Gibbs said officials are trying to determine what happened to 13 other lilacs that were part of the same shipment from an Oregon nursery. The plants were sold between late April and June in Agway stores in Farmingdale, Winslow or Skowhegan, she said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2004 began regulating the transfer of plants from nurseries in California and Oregon to curb the spread of the disease. Surveys over the last three years of more than 70 horticultural businesses turned up no trace of the disease in Maine, until now.

Gibbs cautioned that the spread of the 13 shrubs in Maine does not constitute an epidemic.

“We don’t even know if the disease can survive in Maine’s climate,” she said.


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