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Aquilegia Downy Mildew in UK

Berkshire, Datchet 2015, April.      Hi Carrie
Almost every plant (100+) and various varieties started looking sickly a few weeks ago - some now look totally withered.

Also, the pigeons seem to love the plants this year - never seen/had them pecking Aquilegias before & they have so far focussed solely on the poorly plants rather than the nearby healthy plant(s).    (Interesting, wonder if they eat the infected tissue like slugs do? Or eat the slugs? Or what? Carrie)

As you do, I searched the web & found your site, hope this information is useful.
Buckinghamshire, Chearsley (near Oxfordshire border)

2013. I read with interest your article. I, too, noticed what I thought was a new disease on aquilegias about 2 yrs ago but it may have been present before. I did not report it because I thought it might just be bad husbandry on my part (One always blames oneself!) I will now look out for it in people’s gardens in the area.

2015, April. I became aware of this problem through gardening articles and noticed its presence in an area of my garden this week. I have removed all plants in the affected area in the hope that it will reduce the risk of my losing all my aquilegia, but am not hopeful given the virulence of the disease.
Buckinghamshire, Stoke Poges

2015 April. My mother alerted me to the DM problem, and your website. Last week I found one plant with lighter than normal leaves and taller growth, but because there were no yellow streaks I thought it was ok. This morning spent ages studying your website, and realised it probably wasn't. Went out and had another look, and as you see the plant is definitely diseased. I am fairly sure it is DM. [ Yes]

I have many aquilegia, which were in the garden when  we moved here 20 years ago, and which have been allowed to self seed They basically grow like weeds in my garden. Now suddenly I am afraid I may lose them.

I cannot see any spores on the underside of the leaves, but I gather that doesn't mean much. (No, it is only under ideal (warm wet) conditions, try a hand lens/magnifying glass, and/or a close-up well-focused photo and look closer on your computer.   Carrie)

Buckinghamshire, Wendover (nr Aylesbury)

2014  April 2015  I have suffered the same as you, I had hundreds of aquilegia and they would appear at the rate of knots in front of my largish collection of hellebores and then all of a sudden they were gone. I thought that maybe my soil had been poisoned and because of all the rain we had during the winter of 2013-14 I thought something had been washed into the garden (we are on solid chalk) My plants wilted (they had the yellowing) and died/disappeared, I don’t recall seeing any as bad as some of your pictures. I did have one plant whose seed heads curled and didn’t look good, that plant lasted a bit longer then just disappeared on me, so from having a garden full of aquilegia of all colours and shapes I have a couple of healthy plants in the front garden (all the ones that died were in the back garden)  

I did have some seeds from my parents garden which has not been affected (they live in Hemel Hempstead, Herts) which I did scatter last winter so I’m waiting to see if they appear, although I may have to dig them up if there are any signs of disease. I have more seeds which I will plant in fresh compost and grow in pots and see what happens I certainly won’t be buying any until I know my soil is okay.
Berkshire, Wokingham
2015, April.  I’m reporting this outbreak for a friend, she has downing on new shoots on one plant only at the moment.  She took the action advised in the Daily Telegraph article. I am spreading the word because this is a lovely plant.
Cardiff area Cardiff  2014 Heard from someone who visited Touchwood Garden.
Cardiff, Morganstown
April 2015 Can't send you photo's because as soon as I realised I had a problem with my aquilegia this year I removed all infected plants and burned them. My back garden flower beds are usually smothered with aquilegia at this time of year down both sides of the garden .. not this year though.  I have 1 plant that's okay, there were about 4 with downy mildew, and the remainder didn't show.

My neighbour reported the same problem. Obviously we both had affected plants last year but didn't realise that we had a problem as we both thought aquilegia were relatively 'bullet-proof' plants.
Luckily all the plants in the front garden in both our houses are
'normal' , not that that's much compensation as the plants out back were
becoming very varied from cross pollination I guess as I didn't plant
any that were 2 colours, they just appeared.
My daughter lives just up the valley from me and her plants, some of my
seedlings, are all okay at the moment.
Derbyshire, Chesterfield 2013. I spotted DM last year (2014) after we spoke on the phone last July/August and in retrospect I now realise it was present at least a year before, with the telltale discoloration and looking blasted/burnt almost. So after speaking to you I realised that's what was the cause of my sickly aquilegias in 2014.

I removed all foliage on all plants, even the healthy ones in August cutting everything right to the ground.

I am currently taking stock of what has survived, how many appear to have the disease and trying leaf removal on those that have it.

I do have many plants that are not appearing to be affected though. I'm going to try and record all and see if there is any pattern for example if species types are less affected, hybrids, long spurred etc.                (Great, that would be useful, Carrie)
Devon, South 
'Very early on last spring, (2014) I noticed that some aquilegias I had moved started to look sick, the newly emerging leaves showed the same signs as some of your pics. These plants all died relatively guickly ... I had always been in the habit of moving them about to group whites, blues together etc with no ill effect. Later last spring more plants in different areas of my quite large garden started dying as well, till most of them had died. I tried researching the cause on Google but last spring there was nothing out there to give me any clues. Not the case now! It seems that a few have survived and I wait to see what happens to them. The year before I had bought a couple of plants from some garden centre to increase my stock of unusual ones and they died sometime during the season after flowering. Now I'm somewhat relieved in a curious way to know what killed them but at the same time gutted because I love them as a genus and they were a mainstay in my garden come May. Hey Ho, that's what gardening is about.
I'll keep an eye on the remaining survivors which are now showing early new growth and will take pics if any go bad. It will be interesting to see how many seeds germinate in the soil this spring, usually there are lots everywhere which I don't bother to nurture...I also have some last year's selected seedlings in pots in my nursery area, it'll be interesting to see how they fare.
I'll keep in touch.'
Reply from Carrie: It may not have been the bought plants.  Many bought ones die after flowering, at least here in Swansea which isn’t far from your address. Were they the large, long-spurred flower types? I find, eg the f1 hybrids such as Swan/State series are very unlikely to make it into the following year. Of course they could have had DM, or other problems that may have weakened them such as powdery mildew or whitefly. Additionally, indoor-grown plants that are released for sale then have to contend with various outdoor conditions.... so that too may be a factor regarding their weakened state. 

Update April 26th 2015. You may well be right.... we are hearing about, and seeing, plants being sold with visible yellowy DM patches. Or worse.
See some of the other entries.
Devon, South, Newton Abbot 2015 April.
Hi Carrie, I just noticed some of my aquilegias looking sick this week and quickly found your article online - which perfectly matches the description. I didn’t notice any last year but realise I have far fewer plants this year than last. I have now dug up all that are clearly infected and left the rest with fingers crossed - but suspect I will be digging up more in coming weeks.
Devon, South East 2014
 I can tell you after looking at your pages that I have had this aquilegia downy mildew and I put it down to the wet autumn winter spring and then the heatwaves as I have also had bad mildew in some other plants which I had to pull up in the end.  My aquilegias had the same leaf dying off and pale colour that you describe, and the ones that were badly affected did die off. If plants are like this, I have been removing them.  Plant Ebola.'
Dorset, West, Bradford Abbas nr Sherborne 2014. I have a small garden,cottage style and grow lots of aquilegias. Some I have purchased as named varieties and many more that have self seeded. In the Spring of 2014 I noticed sickly plants here and there (in rear garden only) and like yourself put it down to weather conditions. I picked off the offending leaves and am sure(!!) some may have made their way to the compost bin!!
Throughout that year the situation got worse and although some plants made flower buds only a handful made it to full maturity. Some barely unfurled first leaves before they withered and disappeared.
Ever the optimist and confident that nothing ever touched robust aquilegias(!!) I waited for this years reappearance but nothing has!.
One plant set seed last year and I have a quantity of seedlings around it that at the moment look OK. In my front garden I have about 6 plants that are to date untouched. 
In desperation, just yesterday, I googled 'diseased aquilegias' and found your story. I was able from pictures to confirm that I too had this disease in my garden and I immediately went and dug up any plant showing signs and they are being burned today. Part of my desperation was brought about by the fact that I had just purchased 3 new plants and I was being hesitant about planting them - I knew instinctively that something was very wrong. Hope this adds to your compilation of experiences and I wish you well in your research and quest for a solution.
East Anglia, Norwich 2010
Having read an article about you in Alpine Gardener we are contacting you about our disease problem.  For the last 5 years we have been losing most of our aquilegia plants.  The leaves distort early in the season with the leaflets looking puckered and an overall whitish look.  They then steadily die or at least look terribly unsightly.  We still get seedlings some of which survive.  Some of our species such as skinneri and longissima seem to be less susceptible.
We live near Norwich in East Anglia and have a heavy soil and we are fairly shady.                                    April 2015
Essex /Hertfordshire border, Sawbridgeworth

'I didn’t take any photos of diseased plants but they all seemed to have similar symptoms of the leaves turning white and the plants dying from the top downwards.  At a guess, we lost about 40% of them 2012-13 and 60% 2013-14. 

We calculate that we lost somewhere around 4,000 plants.  These were only some of the ones we lost. The white ones covered about 25 sq ft and have totally disappeared.

By the end of the summer last year there were what looked like quite a lot of new plants coming up and looking quite healthy.  It’s too early to tell whether they will survive.  We’ve sprinkled saved seeds around the garden and sown cultivated ones in the greenhouse.'

Essex, Romford

2013. April 2015: I've just finished another spray of systemic fungicide, the third (2-weekly) dose for some plants. Early days yet, but it is promising. A little while after the first  spraying systemically infected leaves, those borderline and left to test, looked really sickly. Some leaves that had looked healthy, before the spray, didn't look so good after. Others were fine.   
         One or two now look to be diseased at the crown, blackened, and even taking care to spray there, they seem to be beyond cure. If there's no show of fresh good leaves soon I'll dig them out. The encouraging thing is that on most borderline plants new growth looks absolutely fine.
But what still amazes me is that a young perfectly healthy plant can be inches away from a diseased specimen. The the vulgaris are mostly proving strong.

(Blow being organic, the time has come for me to also trial a systemic fungicide, thanks for information. Carrie)

Hampshire, Alton 2015, April.  Have had many purple and pink aquilegias growing in my small garden, happily self-seeding everywhere for many years, they seemed fine last year, or at least thought they were, but nearly all of them have strangely disappeared over the winter, only a small handful have returned, a couple of which look a bit suspect so will remove.       Never known this happen before, reluctant to sow a packet of seed that I have now!  
Hampshire, Cowplain, 12miles from Portsmouth

2015, April.  We have lived in our present home for over 20 years and each year have had a magnificent show of self-sown Aquilegias of many colours. I seem to have very few this spring - usually I would have masses of self-sown seedlings coming up to bloom.    However, I have over the last few days noticed some worrying signs of disease in our plants – at first I thought it could be because I recently scattered Growmore pellets, which may have burnt the leaves of some of my plants, but then I remembered a recent article in the Daily Telegraph.  I will be heartbroken to lose my lovely flowers, and I know you already are. Update a week later: Spoke to my chiropodist during the week who lives a few roads away and her plants have got it! At the moment I seem to have a couple of plants untouched by the disease and coming into normal flower - do you think they could be resistant and if so could they be a valuable source of seeds? Carrie: Possibly, I may be asking in the future about what proves resistant.

I chose this photo of yours as it well shows a kinky stem that can be a DM feature.
Hampshire, Havant
2015, April.  Just to let this mildew has been found in my Mum's garden.  She is out in her garden digging them up as I type. She is devastated as they are they are seeds from her Father's garden and he died almost 40 years ago.
Hampshire, Southampton  2013.  Our aquilegias were decimated last year with this disease.
We think that we may have had 1 or 2 plants with it in 2013 but like you we did not realise the significance.
 We have however one plant looking very healthy at the moment in a large plastic container. This the only survivor of hundreds of plants from 2013. We were thinking if it might be an idea to grow it on in our porch what do you think?
Carrie: Yes, the plant in a pot may well have a little protection because of elevated position (though it means if it gets it it will be very efficient at sending spores over a larger area)
The porch would give added protection from windblown spores and also from rain splashes from soil in case spores are there.... perhaps watering from below may  help? Perhaps a DM-free mulch as well?
Do let me know how it goes..
Hampshire, Kings Worthy, Winchester
2013 Reported April 2015. For the past 2 years I have had aquilegias which come up with pale whitish foliage and they eventually rot off and die. I have posted it to various sites but until now have not had anyone come up with an explanation.
Now a local friend has also had the same problem. It is very sad as all my plants have gradually gone. I still have left one healthy (so far) plant and will see how that gets on and hopefully propagate from it.
 I will do as you say and keep my eyes peeled for other sick plants in the area and have emailed various people.
I hope you and others can come up with a solution.
Hampshire, Upper Weald

Shock horror!!! I have downy mildew on the aquilegias that I have inspected. Feeling week at the knees I came in to email you. I have a lot of aquilegias and am tempted to dig them all up. The ones inspected are at the yellow blotch stage. Some have slight whitening on the under surface.

We are fairly near to Alton ,Alresford, Four Marks and Basingstoke.
Hampshire 2014 via RHS Members' Advisory Service  
Hertfordshire, Buntingford 2015, April. I believe all my aquilegias have succumbed to downy mildew, see attached photos.  I used to have loads of plants, but hardy any have come up this year. They looked ok until a few days ago.

Carrie: I chose this photo as it shows very well that one shoot/nose of an aquilegia plant can be systemically affected whilst the others are (currently) healthy. That shoot will infect the rest of the plant when weather conditions suit sporulation. Or infection may possibly occur via the connecting root tissue.
Hertfordshire, Goff's Oak 2015, April.   I also have what I believe to be the same problem.
Last year I had a beautiful, colourful show, sadly this year I only have a few that are not yet affected, have enclosed a photo, this was a larger very healthy looking plant.  I have now taken all the suspect plants out.

Have also sprayed the remainder with a fungicide, whether this will help I await to see.

I live in Hertfordshire, EN7 5, with no near neighbours, so it hasn't crossed from a close garden to ours.
Hertfordshire, Harpenden
2015.  I saw your article some time ago, after my sister, had found it in her garden and had it identified by the RHS.  She has never worn her gardening clothes while visiting me, though we have both been round one another's gardens in non-gardening clothes.  I caller her round to look at my garden to confirm my suspicions that it had reached here.  There is only one plant that seems so far to be unaffected.  I have very heavy clay soil so I am not looking forward to the task of digging them all up. 
I assume that it affects all aquilegias, and my oh-so-pretty A. canadensis will have to go when it shows itself.
Oh, why didn't I save seed last year when I knew my sister had it?  Sigh!  Not that the canadensis seems to set viable seed, or else it is full of recessive genes and the granny's bonnets always predominate..
Hertfordshire, Great Gaddesden nr Berkhamstead  2014.  I believe that I lost 80% of my aquilegia plants in 2014.

At this time of year (March /April) my aquilegias are usually about a foot high, this year they are very stunted with greying leaves which whither after a week or so.  I would estimate that it has affected 75 to 80% of my plants and I have dug up and burned the worst affected, as recommended in an article in The Daily Telegraph.  I first noticed it last summer but took no action as I thought it was due to the weather. 
Nearly all of my aquilegias are self-seeded crosses and I do have about 8 healthy, normal plants which I am hoping are mildew resistant.
3 weeks later: I have now lost all but 4 plants, the remaining plants being some distance from the others so I'm hoping they will flower and I will be able to collect some seeds.
( Note: I chose this photo as rarely do people show a seedling that has been infected, and it is useful to show this here, Carrie)
Hertfordshire, Little Gaddesden nr Berkhamstead  2015 March.  I have just read the article in Gardens Illustrated and I can report the disease here. It is also present in my brother's garden a mile away. Last year we lost a significant number of our much-loved aquilegias  and enquiries at The Malvern Show provided no clues. The drifts of largely self-sown flowers will be sorely missed which I know you will understand and I am pleased that the problem is at last being recognised.
The problem first manifested as a paling of the leaves to almost white and then the centre of the plant was easily removed leaving the roots.  Surviving plants look normal at the moment.
Hertfordshire, St Albans 2012 See also entry under 'Essex / Hertfordshire border, above.
In 2012  the plants coming up in spring were extremely chlorotic and the leaves soon shrivelled.   I dug up all the Aquilegias in my back garden, as they seemed to be the only ones affected. In 2013 the front garden ones seemed OK and also those few that came up in the back.
 In 2014 it was back with a vengeance, with only one or two plants left at the back, and infection also in the front garden. 

 It was all over the town, many of my friends reported it and a local garden centre had a batch of Aquilegia 'Black Barlow' that was affected. They then contacted the grower. I contacted RHS, who came back to confirm downy mildew and the sad news that nothing could be done, but dig up and dispose.  I passed this info on to the garden centre.
Hertfordshire, Stotfold nr Hitchin

2013. Hi Carrie, I have just come across your web site as I have been trying to find out something about why my aquilegias are dying. I first noticed the problem in spring 2013 but at first thought it was due to a late frost. I had some old groups of wonderful aquilegias all different types and colours that I had grown for years. Gradually the leaves wilted then the flower stalks went before the flowers opened and they shriveled up.

I started to look at them seriously in 2014 but could not find anything on line to explain the problem. I started to remove all infected plants as it was obvious they were not going to recover.

Although heart broken to lose my plants I started to replace them this year with new plants. It sounds like it is a bigger problem than I suspected and I may lose my new plants! 

Hertfordshire, Hertford 2014. April 2015 This spring I thought 'Where are my aquilegias? They should be up by now.' In the front garden I have lost all (about 40), and in the back garden about 85% of 60-70 plants. After speaking with you, I took the leaves off the plants which had succumbed to DM and dug those up which were literally just falling away in my hand. It is heartbreaking, even for me in my little garden, so goodness knows how you must feel. It is especially sad as they are the essence of the typical English cottage garden.
    I, too, like a lot of the other comments, noticed the plants didn't look too good after flowering last year but also put it down to weather conditions. The soil is chalky and light and so certainly does not hold water or create a damp environment.. However I really only noticed in Spring this year when the garden was coming back to life that I couldn't see many aquilegias at all.
Over the last 2 weeks, more have gone but I have also noticed that a couple where I have destroyed the leaves, seem to have come back quite strong. These are Nora Barlows. I do still have a handful of healthy plants dotted around so once they are out in flower (fingers crossed) I will let you know if they are of a particular strain. The McKennas hybrids are nowhere to be seen either.

A picture of happier, nodding aquilegia heads....

Many thanks for all your help and the awareness you are creating.

Hertfordshire, Welwyn  2015 March. Hi Carrie, after reading the article, I have just spent the last hour inspecting, photographing and killing aquilegias! I'm hoping that I have been overzealous, but I suspect that some of our plants have DM and I don't want to take any risks. The majority in the garden look fine, but apart from one plant, all our pure white Barlow types look suspicious.

If you are able to to give me your opinion on the photos that would be great. I have dug up and thrown away all of them apart from the last one, which I'm unsure about. (Carrie: you are right, Kerrie, all are infected except possibly the last one, keep an eye on it) The ones that I bought from you a couple of years ago look fine.

Although its sad that we have the disease, I'm glad that I'm able to spot it and take action. My other half has now studied your DM pages and we will both be extremely vigilant. I will email my NGS county organiser and ask them to spread the word.
Isle of Wight, Newport 2015.  Dear Carrie, Thank you for your reply.  I think the attached photos do show downy mildew but would be very grateful for your confirmation.  I will then dig them up and destroy them. 
 Hope the information is useful and do hope that you National Collection will survive.    Kind regards

17 days later: More plants are showing symptoms now and I am digging up several every few days.
 I am noticing now that some plants have the taller stems you mentioned and waiting to see what develops. I expect I will have to dig those up, too. It is so sad as they really are a spring stalwart in my garden and had made some very pretty crosses. However,  I shall value even more the ones that are left and hope there will always be one that escapes!
Kent, New Beckenham 2015 April. I read the information on your webpage last night. Today I looked around my garden and found one plant that I take to be infected - the leaves look very like the pictures sent by your correspondents from Upper Norwood and Somerset, with the inner section of the plant looking ok, the outer part yellowy and purply, weak and shrivelled. I have removed the infected plant. The other plants look ok. I live in north Kent on the border of of SE London: New Beckenham BR3.

I am so very sorry to read about your plants.
Kent, Paddock Wood 2014. Reported 2015, April.  I have this disease in my garden, which is close to Paddock Wood in Kent.  After reading about it just recently, I realised that I had it last year, but back then I just thought the plants were drought stressed or having a bad year.  This year it's even worse and I am removing all the affected plants. There is only one spot where, for the moment, the plants seem to be developing normally. 

Such a shame. These are beautiful plants which filled the garden magnificently between the tulips and the roses.  In fact, the only previous problem was stopping them spread too much.

 Hopefully, there may be some types which prove to be immune in the longer term.

Best wishes for your collection.
Kent, Sidcup
2015 April.  I have noticed leaves, on an otherwise healthy aquilegia, with the classic signs of downy mildew as shown on the RHS site and yours. The plant was fine a couple of weeks ago, but the whiter green curled leaves caught my eye.  I'm sure I  have seen these symptoms before in my garden, and just picked off the leaves. I also remember, about six or more years ago all my aquilegias failed to flower, with all the flowers 'balling' before they opened.
 I went to the Chelsea Flower show that year and asked one of exhibitors of aquilegias if he knew what it was. He said that he had had quite a few people asking him the same question and he didn't know. So I'm wondering if the disease has been about for a while and is more prevalent in some years.
Lancashire, Preston
2012, possibly earlier. I have just found your pages about Aquilegia downy mildew. My Aquilegias have been dying since about 2011/2012, and having looked at your pictures, I can say it is almost definitely due to this disease. I have been wondering all this time what the problem is. I used to have many throughout my garden but they are now all sick or died except one on its own secluded corner. New (self-sown) seedlings seem to get infected too. I do not have any pictures yet  but will look out for emerging plants showing signs.
Thank you for providing such detailed information on the disease, and I also wanted to say how sorry I am that your beautiful collection of Aquilegias has been so badly affected. I saw your lovely garden on the television and much admired it. I hope you find a good way to fight the disease, sorry I cannot be of help this way as I have not found any way to save my plants.
Lancashire, Preston - 12 miles North in Calder Vale.
2014, April.  I think this plant must have mildew as it matches what you have described. I realised we have had less and less plants. Even my rather non-gardening husband noted the lack of aquilegias this year. The garden is very shady and quite moist most of the time. 
Carrie: I'm 95% sure it is DM, though the dark netted effect is not typical. The curled, dying leaflets (out of focus) seem to confirm.
London, Greater, Croydon
2012-13 April 2015  I have just seen the article in the Plant Heritage booklet about the new Downy Mildew Aquilegia disease. I first saw what appeared to be this disease infecting an large percentage of the Aquilegia in the garden of a relative living nearby in Croydon about 3 years ago. This year for the first time. I noticed it on two plants in our own garden. The advice on your website seems to be to get rid of the infected plants as soon as possible which is what we will now do.
As yet I have not noticed on any infestation of the Aquilegia in any the several gardens I manage professionally on Cadogan Estate in Chelsea, London.
London,  Greater, SE19 Upper Norwood
Possibly since 2005-2007. I have been browsing your Touchwood site.  I immediately recognized symptoms of the Downy Mildew as something I have seen for many years among my own aquilegias, which is devastating.  It has been here more than 8 years and maybe less than ten.  I had some short term relief after watering with an ericaceous fertilizer solution, as many gardeners suddenly suffered severe fungal problems on their allotments/gardens following the then reduction in acid rain.  I may try it again this year. Plants are to a large extent surviving and flowering and even looking good during their seasonal peak. I do 'clean' the plants by removing marked foliage and nipping off distorted buds when I see them. I discard distorted seed pods just in case they carry the disease.  Sadly, many seedlings are marked by DM very early on and some even weakened, the leaves I peal away are often almost entirely whitish and weak-looking and, to start with, an almost picotee-type darkening at the edges.   However, I know from experience that, were I to leave the leaves in situ, the dark marking would slowly flood the rest of the leaf.  What I have noticed, which may go against your meristem theory, is that, even on young seedlings, the outer leaves are marked but the inner new growth is unaffected, at least for a while.  Inevitably, the clean outer leaves become marked, so I am constantly peeling away outer leaves.
Photo shows whitish new leaves that appear systemically infected, as well as (bottom) yellowy patches of infection on an old leaf.
London, Greater, NW11 2014. Yes, I have it! Last year the flowers did not develop properly. this year the leaves are all yellow. Normally my front garden in a few weeks is full of them and people stop to admire. So sorry about yours. So sad.  
London. Nunhead, Peckham.
2015, April.  I have spotted this in my garden for the first time this year. Some are in the middle of other apparently healthy aquilegias, but I guess that I should remove all of the adjacent ones too? Especially given the heavy rain we have had in the last few days. I also share plants with my parents and sister, do you know if it can be transferred on other plants even if unaffected themselves?
(Those 2 pics with unusual brown bits are certainly not what i have seen, other pics show leaves that look more typical, curled and whitish. I suggest you leave adjacent plants but keep close eye out especially for the other symptom of subtle angular yellowy patches. The plant takes a time to show symptoms, just like we can pass on flu even before we are aware of illness.... and spores can be in the soil attached to plants. So ask sis and mum to keep a close eye out... though it may also be that DM is in their area anyway..... Carrie)
   Reply: The ones with the brown patches are actually ones that have brown patches when healthy, not something I had ever seen before moving here.
London (North), Highgate 2015, March. Thank you for the brilliant help and information on your website about Downy Mildew on Aquilegias.  After reading about it in the Plant Heritage mag yesterday I checked my plants and, yes, of course, I have it too.  I vaguely remember seeing such distorted growth last year but, being ignorant, did nothing about it. 

 I have dug out some plants, and will try the 'nose removal' you suggest on others as it seems sad to jettison the apparently healthy part of a plant. (Comment from Carrie, this MAY not work: RHS have now found DM lesions in roots) 

 A lot of plants seem unaffected but I don't suppose there's anything I can do to protect them.

I am so sorry about your collections, it must be heart-breaking.
London (North), Muswell Hill 2013.   At last, thanks to your website, I have found the reason for the demise of the aquilegias that were such a feature of my gardens.  In 2011 I needed to replace an old favourite variety and so bought a large number of plants from a nursery. I fear that these plants introduced the problem. The new plants died one by one, and my other aquilegias started to disappear on a grand scale - mature plants and seedlings - others looked sickly.  I have one healthy plant left in the garden. I wonder if it will survive...
In 2013 I contacted the RHS and sent photos, but they had no specific advice about what the problem was, just some generic suggestions.
London SE See entry for Kent, New Beckenham.  
Middlesex, Enfield
2015, April. I have recently noticed an Aquilegia that appeared to be wilting badly. My following investigations led me to your website. I then looked more closely at my other plants and I found others affected as you have described. I have only been resident here for 2 years so know little of the history of the garden or these plants. I suspect that they are all self seeded. There are of the order of 20 plants of which approximately six appear to currently be affected. I have destroyed these plants and am watching the remainder carefully.
Good luck in your investigations
Middlesex, Northolt. 2015, April.
Having read your article in the April edition of Gardens Illustrated I believe, after inspecting some of my aquilegias which I planted last autumn, they are suffering from the downy mildew shown on your website. 
They have been dug up and will be disposed of securely, hoping the DM will not spread to any of my other aquilegias.

  Note from Carrie: quite a few people have recently sent in photos showing dark patches on the DM aquilegia leaves, not something I have seen in my healthy plants, nor my DM diseased plants. One person reassured me that her aquilegia leaves were always like that anyway.  Here the symptom is the subtle yellowy, angular areas.
Oxfordshire 2014, via RHS Members' Advisory Service  
Oxfordshire, Charlbury, Chipping Norton 2014    I read about the mildew that is affecting Aquilegias in Gardens Illustrated. I had been wondering what was going on with my aquilegias last year. Noticed that they looked as if something was nibbling them, and I had difficulty imagining that any creature would attack something as tough as aquilegias. So, now I know that some of my plants have the disease. By the way, I don't have very fancy aquilegias, just your common blue, purple, pink varieties.
I have already dug them out, sorry, so no picture available.

Good luck with your plants. let's hope the plants will develop a resistance to the disease!
Oxfordshire, Shiplake, Henley-on-Thames 2013
I had a garden full of aquilegias, my pride and joy.  In 2013 I noticed that they were looking very poorly, and the RHS diagnosed downy mildew.  Now I have NO aquilegias.   I didn't even have to dig them up and remove them.   They all died. 
It is a great tragedy, and happened so fast.  
I've just sent DM information out to my Garden Club, with your webpage address.
Last year I was at a Garden Centre near Reading, and saw that all their aquilegias had the same symptoms.  

 I talked to the staff there and warned them , but whether or not they sold these plants on I don't know. 

 I think they thought I was an alarmist. 
Somerset, North, Wrington 

2015, March.  I’ve got a horrible feeling that some of our many aquilegias have got downy mildew, so I’m sending you photos.  I read about it in last Saturday’s Telegraph and after inspecting some of the plants, I am worried by what I found.  I seem to remember that last year’s display was not as good as usual, although I didn’t notice anything in particular.Re the plants yesterday, several of them looked decidedly sickly, although I couldn’t actually see any of the downy growth on the underside of the leaves. I’d really appreciate your opinion on this, before I start digging them all up. (Carrie: bad news, yes, dig these out. And it is very difficult to see the downiness, most of the time it isn't there or clear) A week later: I spent a rather depressing afternoon yesterday digging up some Aquilegias ... they were actually a lot more difficult to dig up than I was expecting!  I still haven’t spotted any of the downy growth on the back of any of the leaves, although I have looked very closely and taken close-up photos and looked on the computer screen, as you suggested.

South Glamorgan 2014 via RHS Members' Advisory Service  
Surrey 2014 via RHS Members' Advisory Service  
Surrey, Ashtead 2015  April.  I think I have discovered the problem of my Aquilegias by looking at you website. It must be devastating for you. I shall now have to dig mine up. Can I leave the unaffected ones at the moment? Many are self seeded. I enclose some photos. 

Yes, leave the unaffected ones but keep a close check on them from now on, especially for the much more subtle signs of yellowy angular patches on some leaves.  Carrie
Surrey, Kingston upon Thames

Carrie: To have systemic infection now, DM must have been there last year, but the yellowy patches are very subtle. Most of us don't see them until we know what to look for... whether wegarden in a small cottage garden or a large educational one.
2015 April. Thank you for your very informative article about this horrible new disease. Aquilegias are one of my favourite plants and every spring I look forward to seeing their beautiful flowers. But this year has been a disaster, with most of my plants having rotted away over the winter - something which has never happened before on my light sandy soil. The symptoms seem identical to those you describe.With hindsight, the disease must have been in my garden last year but I didn't notice it. There is sometimes the odd plant which doesn't thrive for some reason and they are not always long-lived. I hadn't considered any disease as Aquilegias are (or had been up to now) bombproof! I have removed the affected plants from my back garden. The front garden still has a few seemingly healthy plants so far, but I am not optimistic. Although I am devastated to have found this disease in my garden, my loss is nothing compared to yours. I really feel for you. I will follow your advice and let you know if I find out anything that could be helpful.
Surrey, Wonersh, nr Guildford

2015, April. We first noticed that a few of our aquilegias were wilting and dying a week or so ago, and now having read the article in the Telegraph and your website, which was really useful, we can see that the problem is widespread in our garden.  We’re in the process of digging out and removing the diseased plants and hoping that those so far unaffected will survive, but who knows ...

 I don’t remember seeing this problem before this year but maybe we were just unobservant. But even if we’d spotted the patches last year, we wouldn’t have known what we were looking at.   Now we do, sadly.  I’ve attached a few pictures.  It’s such a shame as aquilegias have happily grown and self-seeded for years.  Interestingly, our semiaquilegias seem unaffected – as yet ...

Surrey, Little Bookham Nr Leatherhead. 2014   April 2015 The systemically infected plants were very clear to see with their whitened foliage and infected look. The initial stages of yellowy patches are very hard to see. There's a hint given (right), by the slug slime and droppings!
Surrey, Little Bookham Nr Leatherhead. 2014   April 2015  Finding a few plants with subtle yellowy patches enabled finding the few systemically infected plants deep in that border that had infected the others. All plants are self-sown or sown from seed rather than bought-in.

Carrie: I chose this photo as it shows the lesions on golden-leaved aquilegia plants. It is not until the patches turn brown that you can see that they exist.
Surrey, nr Redhill
2015 April.  I was shocked to discover a couple of aquilegias in the flower beds which seem to be showing clear signs of ADM.  I immediately dug them up and put them in sacks to take to the Council tip.  I don't think there's any doubt about the diagnosis.
            I don't grow anything special - practically all my plants are self-sown seedlings, which thrive much better than anything I buy.  Having said that, there are a few plants of long-spurred varieties which have come from HPS seed, but (so far) they don't seem to be affected.  I'm pretty upset, so I imagine you must be devastated about the effect on your collection.
The HPS Southern Counties Group has a meeting on Saturday and I shall be telling members to be aware of the problem.  I'm also looking forward to meeting you at the Ranunculaceae Day in a couple of weeks.  I'm hoping there'll be some cheerful topics as well as this devastating disease.
(I really like this photo in the way it shows a badly (systemically) infected plant next to a healthy one which well shows what the normal development should look like right now.  Carrie)
Surrey, Richmond,
Kew Gardens
2014  April 2015: I discovered a patch of systemically infected plants in The Duke's Garden. After bringing the issue to the attention of the gardener responsible for this area, I then checked as many other aquilegia plants as possible, taking photos as necessary. Later I delivered a full illustrated email report of any plants that I'd seen that had worrying symptoms.    
Surrey, Richmond,
Kew Gardens
Plant Sales
 April 2015: Yellowy patches found on another batch of Aquilegia plants. It has already happened once this season, and this in another supplier, so nurseries are not aware of it.
Carrie: no nursery would ever knowingly send infected plants to Kew and Wisley or any other botanic or RHS garden. Yet it is happening, and it is not a 1-off. So nurserymen need information that ADM exists, and help to recognize this highly infective and destructive new disease.
Perhaps we gardeners may be one way of feeding back the info to nurseries, but I will also try and get another article in Horticulture Week, this link is to the one in March 2015.
Surrey, Sunbury on Thames

2015, April. Having read the article in the Saturday Telegraph a few weeks ago, I have been watching my Aquilegia.  I’m sad to say that many of them have developed the downy mildew.  I have dug up about 30 (about 60% of what I have).  Most of the affected plants had either curled leaves or leaves that had turned pale and also some that were somewhat ‘shrivelled’.  The downy mildew on the reverse of the leaves was not evident. 

It’s such a shame as they are delightful plants but let’s hope that, in time, you will be successful in breeding from the
‘survivors’ Carrie.  Good luck.
Surrey, Woking, RHS Garden, Wisley 2014  April 2015.Finding a patch of systemically infected plants at Wisley has triggered a search for any others in the garden, as well as being useful 1st-hand knowledge for the horticulturalists, especially the many trainees.  
Surrey, Woking, RHS Garden, Wisley.  Plant Centre April 2015.The initial symptoms showed as hard-to-see lesions on small leaflets. Rapidly the infected plant was removed and others investigated and quarantined; and sales benches disinfected.  
Surrey, Worcester Park 2015, April.  Good evening, just notice several plants affected. Will remove and keep watch.   
Sussex, East.  Lewes
2015, April.  We have been living in our house for 25 years and always had a wonderful display of aquilegia.  This year for the first time, only one came through but this has now wilted and died.  I'm assuming with is downy mildew.
Sorry, no pics - no plants.  I've lost my complete crop. 
Yes it is devastating but thanks to your website, I take some consolation in knowing that I'm not the only one who's suffering such a loss.
Sussex, East. Wilmington  
2015 April.  I was wondering what was happening to all my aquilegias when I saw the small article in Gardens Illustrated.  The symptoms exactly match those on your website.
The other noticeable thing is that they have not self-seeded as usual. I didn't notice a problem with them last year, but they can't have seeded as one flower bed usually has way too many and this year there are only one or two.
I live at the foot of the Downs, on chalk.
Thanks for your reply & all the helpful advice.

  I've passed it on to gardening friends.
Sussex, East. Ringmere, Lewes

Update 17th April 2015:
I have seen downy mildew all over Lewes and Southease too.
2015, April.   I have hundreds of self seeded aquilegia in my garden and most of them look very sick, I have a dreadful feeling it's downy mildew and have attached photos for you to confirm please. I am utterly gutted, I cant imagine living without them. Do I have to dig them up or just cut them down? I am so gutted, I can't imagine living without them, my all time favourite plants: gone.

  Yes, this is DM, and I'm afraid that with these systemically-infected ones, they need to be dug out. Already they are sporulating so infecting others and the soil. Later in the season watch out for the very much more subtle symptoms of angular yellowish patches, and then it may be worth just taking off infected leaves. Carrie
 I did not think that the disease was in Sussex. I will spread the word.
Swansea, Killay  2013 (in retrospect, actually realised in spring 2014)
Killay (Touchwood National Collections)

'Aquilegias are my love, passion and livelihood. Is this the end of the National Plant Collections of Aquilegia in the UK?'

Update 24/4/2015  Yes, basically it is the end. Despite all the continual care that I took last year, ( destroying systemically infected plants and removing other infected leaves after flowering until winter when I cut all leaves right back),  I am down to about 10% of the plants I had last year. If that. This is an extremely virulent disease.
Vale of Glamorgan, Dinas Powys April 2015.

 Unfortunately, I have only just realised why my plants look yellow and limp. I shall remove them immediately  and hope the remaining plants will be ok.

Here's the photo. It's just one of about 6 that is affected.
Wiltshire, Chippenham, (west of) April 2015.This is Aquilegia Spring Magic, I had both the red & cream and the yellow and both seemed to not grow at all, I had assumed that they had been grown under glass and didn't like being moved outside. They have tried to flower but very weakly and are covered in leaves which are patchy yellow turning brown, just like in your photos on your website, and the leaf stalks have reddish brown marks on them. I will burn them now that I know what it is.

The white Spring Magic ones have grown fantastically and are flowering quite happily.
Wiltshire, Lacock, Chippenham April 2015. I have many hundreds of aquilegias in my garden and this year about three quarters have come up with this disease.  They were fine last year.

 It's going to look pretty empty this summer.  .
Wiltshire, nr Devizes April 2015. I had new plants bought at a nursery and I think that these plants introduced the problem.  
Yorkshire, South, Sheffield 2015 April. My garden is in Sheffield and once I weeded out aquilegias I had so many. Now most of them are gone. Of the few that are left looking healthy I'm not sure if any will flower. I live about 3 miles from the city centre at about 500' altitude. Much of the garden is sheltered by trees and hedges. Good luck with the investigations
Yorkshire, South, Sheffield 2015 April.  I am distressed to read your website information and to feel sure that I have the disease in my garden in Sheffield. I have a small cottage garden which is filled with aquilegias that have been there many years and have self seeded all over the garden.

(Oh, I'm so sorry for you, yes this is downy mildew. Carrie)

Reply: I have spent today digging up all the obviously sick plants, about half my total. Another sign is how easily the stems come away from the root when pulled. I shall wait anxiously to see if
the rest succumb.
It is a mystery how the disease arrived. All my plants are self seeded from plants in my garden when I moved in - 36 years ago. I have never bought an aquilegia as I loved the gradation from pinks to purples to blues and didn't want to introduce other colours.
Yorkshire, South, Sheffield 2015 April. Another report from Sheffield I'm afraid.  I was alerted to the disease through the local Hardy Plant Soc. and went out to look at mine.  I have dug up or de-leaved about 12 plants, all concentrated in 2 borders, one above the other.  None of the surrounding plants show any sign at the moment, but I will keep a close eye on them. 
I haven't bought in or even sown any aquilegias for about 20 years - what I have is the result of self-seeding. 

So far only a small proportion of my total stock, but I will have to be very vigilant.

So far (May 2022) Aquilegia DM is only known to occur in the UK, Germany and Asia.    

Note,  It is a species in the Peronospora genus (rather than being a Bremia or Plasmopara downy mildew.)  It now has been named as Peronospora aquilegiicola and came from East Asia

How the search went....

    How can a new pathogen arise? 

Here's how the RHS members' advisory service usefully explained it:

With regards to the new species that this downy mildew appears to be, it is based on the fact that the DNA is unique and the current host is unknown to have a downy mildew infection previously recorded. At the moment, we are unable to identify where exactly this disease has appeared from. There are a few different possibilities, some more likely than others, that would result in the sudden appearance of this downy mildew.

These are a few of the possibilities that could cause the sudden appearance of this downy mildew species on the aquilegia plants in the UK. It is very difficult to identify the exact reason for it appearance, but there are some molecular methods we can use look at the diversity of the fungus which might suggest whether it is new to the UK.

The RHS has also been progressing with the molecular work and have sequenced further regions of the DNA to help with identification. Provisional analysis of these new sequenced sections of DNA also appear to be unique suggesting a new species rather than an already known species that is expanding their host range.

Despite the heartache that this new pathogen has brought to me, I am fascinated by the idea of a new disease arising, and with such detrimental results. Luckily, the RHS Members' Advisory Service was able to give me further perspective on this:  New diseases could arise quite often, but not always are they detected and realised that they are new to science. So through the RHS advisory service we might detected about 3-10 new to the UK or on new hosts per year. But the number of new species we know are new species or are involved in describing is far less, probably about 5-10 over the last 10 years. So this is not a common event ,but not unusual, and depending on which type of fungus is your specialism, it can increase or decrease the likelihood of finding new species to science.

Chen from China (he hosts a TV gardening show)  told me they have it there but it's not an issue except in spring and autumn.... 'I do have to point out that my city has a  different climate. Usually in winter it is very dry, and when it comes to wet  season the temperature is fairly high. This disease spreads only briefly  between the spring andsummer in my area. After that, it's all gone. I only  encountered it twice inthe past 7 years.'  He went on:

A friend told me
that no written record of aquilegia cultivation was found until 1980s,
not to mention the ADM.  As you may know that the Chinese gardens are
normally featured with acer, azalea,magnolias, tree peony etc, the
introduction of Aquilegia to Chinese gardeners was really after the
influence of western garden in recent years. Data shows that in 1988
Canadian Aquilegia was formally introduced to China for the first time.
And I suppose that's the starting point of western aquilegia's
cultivation in China.
 Aquilegia Yabeana,A. ecalcarata, A. Viridiflora
are the most cultivated native species. We have more species native to
China, but they are naturally distributed at some remote provinces. They
are thus not readily cultivated by commercial farms and not available
for common gardeners. I suppose these three specials to be the


Have you visited the general webpage of aquilegia pests & diseases?


This page you have been reading about downy mildew         DM signs on leaves

Comparing DM signs with variegation                   DM signs on variegated & golden leaves    

DM on flowers and buds                                            DM effects on whole plants

Case history of 3 plants                                               DM systemic infection in plants

DM systemic infection in plants as they emerge in springtime

Comparison with biternate and triternate aquilegia leaves              DM Directory: area of infection