News Releases

Boxwoods Declining, Town to Remove Several at Old Town Cemetery

Tuesday, June 1, 2021
About sixty boxwoods will be removed from the Old Town Cemetery in June. The shrubs will be cut close to the ground and the area will be mulched and left unplanted for several years to allow time for damaging nematodes to die off.

The Town of Hillsborough plans to remove about 60 boxwoods from the Old Town Cemetery in June because they have declined.

“We had hoped that the boxwoods might pull through with corrective pruning but unfortunately, that is not the case,” said Public Space Manager Stephanie Trueblood. ”Once we understood that they will not recover but will just continue to worsen, we knew that removal was the only option.”

The Tree Board decided to remove the boxwoods at its April meeting. The Tree Board makes decisions about plantings on town property and in the town’s rights of way. The cemetery is town property.

The Tree Board’s decision to remove the boxwoods was made after months of consideration. The board was presented research by Hillsborough resident Bill Harris about the possible causes of decline. After submitting soil samples to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and consulting with Mark Weathington, director of the J.C. Raulston Arboretum, Harris presented options to the Tree Board.

Harris’s research led to the conclusion that nematodes, blight and wet conditions are contributing to the boxwood’s decline. The board considered treating the nematodes with chemicals, but the boxwoods would have likely suffered further damage from the chemicals and eventually died. The board decided it was best to remove the boxwoods and leave the ground unplanted for several years to remove the food source for nematodes and other pests that have been feeding on the roots.

Trueblood advises that property owners with declining boxwoods have their shrubs evaluated and consider removal if nematodes are present. She also recommends avoiding planting varieties of boxwoods that are susceptible to nematodes and blight.