OU landscaping department to replace diseased roses


University of Oklahoma landscaping specialist Tammie Mitchell stands in front of surviving roses in the Gaylord courtyard on Sept. 10. Many of OU campus roses have been killed by a virus called Rose Rosette or witches’ broom.

Molly Madeleine Kruse

Rose bushes are being killed by a rose disease around the University of Oklahoma Norman Campus, leaving the landscaping department with the expensive task of replacing them.

Known as witches’ broom or Rose Rosette, the disease has taken out roses in front of Evans Hall to beds southwest of Gaylord College for the past five years, said Chester Warner, OU landscaping supervisor. The disease, a virus, has no cure. 

Roses affected by witches’ broom must be destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading further.

“You rip it out of the ground,” said Warner. “You get rid of it, you wait about three to five years, and then you can think about replanting them.”

OU President James Gallogly has been cutting costs around campus, including the landscaping department, said Warner.

Since rose bushes are relatively expensive to replace at $15 to $20 per plant and some beds have 20 to 30 rose bushes in them, landscaping is looking into different replacements for diseased roses. Crape myrtles are one option, said Warner.

However, some on-campus buildings and locations have historically featured roses, so they are expected to always have them. In these cases, new roses might be planted despite the risk that they will get the disease again, said Tammie Mitchell, OU landscaping specialist.

“They’ve replanted [Rose Sharp Rose Garden] probably four times now,” said Mitchell. “Because it’s an endowed garden, and they want roses in it.”

The Rose Sharp Rose Garden is a memorial garden northwest of the Bizzell Memorial Library, according to the library website.