Pest- Alert: Box Tree Caterpillar

I like to think of my garden as one of natural exuberance (though some may see it as reckless abandon), and for 23 years I have avoided plants that favor the tightly sheared and closely managed life of a formal landscape. A plant like Box (Buxus), for example.

Alas, the Fates had a different plan in mind. At a recent meeting of my local garden club, I was the “lucky number” winner of Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’ , which was hard pruned to resemble a green and ivory pyramid. Poor thing. Yet, there is hope. Its variegated foliage is handsome and once it grows out the plant may be quite attractive.

So that just leaves a pest and disease issue,  particularly problematic for me, an organic gardener. Garden references list over fifteen different problems affecting Box. Moreover, in the December 2011 issue of ” The Garden”, a publication of the Royal Horticultural Society in England, I read about a new horror: the Box Tree Caterpillar, which can completely defoliate plants, and has already done so on mainland Europe. And just this year, it has been found active in private gardens in the U.K.

After a call to the horticultural gurus at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, New York, I was reassured: the caterpillar is not (yet?) a problem in the US. But as it is  native to East Asia ( China, Japan, Korea ) where many of our current and most damaging  pests originate, we had all best keep a watchful eye. Surely one of the downsides of a global society.

Leave a Reply