During the recent warm weeks, I have monitored the activities and press releases of Indiana Conservation Officers throughout the State… they are busy… unfortunately, busy with water related tragedies. In Northern Indiana a child was swept away by high waters; kayakers have drowned from Lake Michigan to far Southern Indiana; and boaters have perished from encounters with low head dams. Alcohol doesn’t mix with water recreation, and the combination of the two has put officers in body recovery in several instances across Indiana.

To help stem the tide of water related accidents, Indiana Conservation Officers have some suggestions. Regardless of why you are around bodies of water, you should always recognize the danger water poses, even to strong swimmers or experienced boaters. If you are going to be recreating around the water, please remember these basic safety tips:

— Always wear your lifejacket

— Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return

— Go with a buddy

— Never venture around flooded or fast moving waterways

— Avoid alcohol

In addition to basic water safety, Indiana Conservation Officers are also stressing the importance of boating safety and are reminding boaters to know the rules of the water.

Reducing the boat’s speed in unfamiliar areas and being aware of unusual water conditions respective to the size and type of boat are among the important environmental considerations. Regardless of boat type, an initial assessment of the water levels and current speed are essential prior to beginning your voyage.

Designating a sober boat operator should always be a priority. Alcohol causes impaired balance, blurred vision, poor coordination, impaired judgement, and slower reaction time. The impairments can be magnified by wave action, sun exposure, and wind. It is illegal to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft in Indiana while intoxicated due to alcohol or drugs. Indiana law defines intoxication as having a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or greater.

Another priority is lifejackets. Lifejackets should be United States Coast Guard approved, be in good working condition, and size appropriate. New lifejackets are designed to be lighter, less obtrusive, and more comfortable. Inflatable lifejackets allow mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, or paddling, and are much cooler in warmer weather.

“A person is never too old to wear a lifejacket,” said Lt. Kenton Turner, Indiana’s Boating Law Administrator. “The majority of Indiana drownings on public waterways involve adults.”

To learn more about boating education and safety, see: dnr.IN.gov/lawenfor/8678.htm.

Boxwood Blight Discovered At Home Depot Stores

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been made aware of a shipment of boxwood plants at Home Depot stores containing the boxwood blight fungus. They have originated from a nursery named Cottage Gardens in Ohio.

Boxwood blight (Calonectria pseudonaviculata) is a fungal disease infesting members of the popular Buxaceae family, and is often transported through the nursery trade. Hosts include Buxus (boxwood), Pachysandra (Japanese spurge) and Sarcococca (sweetbox). Annual inspections of nursery stock by the DNR verify the pathogen is not indigenous to Indiana, nor can it be found in nursery stock sourced locally.

When the fungus, which can lay dormant in drier conditions, is present, it can be found on all above-ground portions of the plant and presents itself as dark leaf spots. It causes rapid defoliation, which typically starts on the bottom of the plant and moves toward the top. The fungal pathogen can move through sporulation in water and from dropped leaves. As a result, infection can spread to surrounding plants from a single infected plant.

The infected nursery stock is currently being pulled from shelves in 13 Home Depot stores by nursery inspectors and Cottage Garden representatives and will be disposed of in a manner preventing the pathogen from spreading to other stock.

There are several varieties of boxwood sold in Home Depot stores. The only species currently testing positive for the fungus is Korean boxwood (Buxus Koreana), however the DNR is testing other species to ensure the pathogen has not spread. If you have purchased a Korean boxwood from a Home Depot store in the last month please contact the DNR for further guidance at 866-NO EXOTIC.

Sudden Oak Death Threat Expands Statewide

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed more than 70 Walmart stores and 18 Rural King stores in the state have received rhododendron plants infected with sudden oak death (SOD), a fungal pathogen which kills oak trees. Shipments containing infested material were sent to nine other states as well.

Workers from the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology have been visiting stores across Indiana to destroy any stock found infested and quarantine any symptomatic stock. The division has made this its top priority.

The DNR has destroyed approximately 1,500 infested rhododendrons so far and pulled another 1,500 from stores. The DNR has also ordered the stores to stop selling rhododendron until further notice. Any quarantined material not infected will be released following testing at Purdue University.

The DNR is also following up with homeowners who have called in to say they’ve purchased material they believe is infested or are seeing signs or symptoms of sick trees in the environment.

SOD has killed large tracts of oaks on the West Coast. SOD has not been established in the Midwest, to date. SOD can kill standing oak trees, which could happen if SOD-positive rhododendron were planted within about 6 feet of a standing oak.

SOD travels in more than a hundred species of host plant material. It causes some browning of the leaves in the host but does not kill it. For a list of those plants see the following https://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/pram/downloads/pdf_files/usdaprlist.pdf

If you have purchased rhododendrons in the last four weeks from Walmart or Rural King, destroy them, or call 1-866-NO-EXOTIC (663-9684) or the local county extension office at 1-888-EXT-INFO (1-888-398-4636) for instructions.

This is an ongoing investigation, and guidance could change as more information is gathered.

To learn more about SOD, see: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/plant-pest-and-disease-programs/pests-and-diseases/phytophthora-ramorum/sod.

‘till next time, Jack

Readers can contact the author by writing to this publication, or e-mail at jackspaulding@hughes.net.