Brian Hudelson's headshot

Brian Hudelson

Director, University of Wisconsin Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences/Division of Extension | Department of Plant Pathology

Hometown: Madison, WI

Brian Hudelson is affectionately known as “Dr. Death” because of his love of plant diseases. Brian received his BS in Botany, Bacteriology and Molecular Biology, MS in Biometry and PhD in Plant Pathology from the UW-Madison, and in 1998, became the director of the Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic (PDDC). The PDDC (part of the Department of Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension) provides expertise in diagnosing plant diseases, and information on plant diseases and their control to a wide range of clientele throughout the state of Wisconsin.


Fundamentals of Plant Diseases

Learn about disease-causing organisms (fungi, bacteria, viruses, phytoplasmas and nematodes) and the symptoms they cause, as well as information on environment factors that favor disease development.  Also learn about disease-like plant disorders caused by non-biological factors such as nutrient imbalances, pesticide exposures, environmental pollutants and adverse environmental conditions.

Presentation Length: 2.5 – 3 hours

Diseases of Evergreens

Learn about common diseases of evergreens (both needled and broadleaved) and their management.

Presentation Length: 2.5 – 3 hours (Full Talk)
(Shorter customized versions also available)

Deciduous Tree and Shrub Diseases

Learn about common diseases of deciduous trees and shrubs and their management.

Presentation Length: 4 hours (Full Talk)
(Shorter customized versions also available)

Diseases of Herbaceous Ornamentals

Learn about common diseases of herbaceous ornamentals and their management.

Presentation Length: 3 – 4 hours (Full Talk)
(Shorter customized versions also available)

Ten Diseases of Native Plants (and Non-Natives, Too)

Learn about common diseases of plants that are native to Wisconsin.  This presentation will include information on how to identify these diseases, as well as information on how to manage them.

Presentation Length:  1.5 – 2 hours (Full Talk)
(Shorter customized versions also available)

Diseases of Landscape Plants

Learn about common diseases of your favorite outdoor plants (including herbaceous plants and woody trees and shrubs) and their management. This talk combines elements from Diseases of Herbaceous Ornamentals, Diseases of Evergreens, and Deciduous Trees and Shrub Diseases (see above) to provide a customized talk for your specific location.

Presentation Length:  3 – 4 hours (Full Talk)
(Shorter customized versions also available)

Hosta Diseases

Learn about common diseases of hostas and their management.

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.25 hours

Orchid Diseases

Learn about common diseases of orchids and their management.

Presentation Length:  1 hour

Diseases of Bonsai Plants

Learn about common diseases of plants used in the ancient art form of bonsai and how to manage these diseases.

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.5 hours

Vegetable Diseases

Learn about common diseases of vegetables and their management.

Presentation Length:  3 – 4 hours (Full Talk)
(Shorter customized versions also available)

Diseases of Houseplants

Learn about common diseases of houseplants and their management.

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.5 hours

The Science (and Art) of Plant Disease Diagnosis

Learn about the complex process involved in accurately identifying plant diseases.

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.5 hours

Growing Healthy Plants – Basics in Plant Disease Management

Learn about common methods for disease control, their pros and cons, and how you can adapt these techniques for use in your own home garden.

Presentation Length:  1.5 – 2.0 hours

Plant Disease Management by Design: Preventing Plant Disease Problems During the Landscape Design Process

Learn about common diseases in landscape settings and strategies in site evaluation, plant selection, plant installation, and post-installation maintenance that will help you design and establish landscapes that will have long-term sustainability.

Presentation Length:  1.5 – 2.0 hours

Plant Diseases in History

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.5 hours

Confessions of a Black Thumb – Plants That I Have Killed (or at Least Seriously Maimed)

Learn about the favorite plants of Brian Hudelson (aka Dr. Death) and his epic failures in attempting to grow these plants in his home garden, either through his encouragement of plant diseases, his insistence on practicing “Darwinian gardening” or through his sheer gardening stupidity. Use these cautionary tales to improve your own gardening skills.

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.25 hours

Dr. Death’s Plant Disease Predictions for 2023

Learn about Brian Hudelson’s predictions of what diseases will be prevalent and of importance in 2023.   Keep in mind however, that if Brian were actually able to predict accurately, he would not be giving this talk, but would be relaxing on a beach somewhere, drink in hand, having made millions playing the stock market.

Presentation Length:  1.5 – 2 hours

Top Ten Plant Diseases of 2023

Learn about 10 plant diseases that made a splash at the UW-Madison Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic in 2023.  Diseases include both those that were submitted the most commonly to the clinic and those that potentially had the biggest impact from an economic or regulatory standpoint.

Presentation Length:  1.5 – 2 hours

Evil Twins: Plant Disease Look-Alikes

Learn about common diseases that have similar symptoms and can be misidentified, but may have very different management strategies.

Presentation Length:  1.5 – 2 hours

The Bad and the Ugly: Ten Plant Diseases Not to Compost

Certain plant diseases are so horrible or so deadly that composting is not an appropriate way to get rid of affected plants.  Learn about some of these diseases and their proper management.

Presentation Length:  1.5 – 2 hours

New and Emerging Plant Diseases

Learn about plant diseases that have recently arrived in Wisconsin and have potential economic and/or regulatory impact, as well as more established diseases that have the potential to significantly impact the state in the near future.

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.5 hours

Tales from the PDDC: Trials and Tribulations from 2020 (and Beyond)

Learn about how COVID-19 impacted activities at the PDDC in 2020 and about some of the über-cool plant diseases that made their way to the clinic.

Presentation Length:  1 – 1.5 hours

Custom Constructed Plant Disease Talks

Consult with Brian to develop a plant disease talk that is customized to fit the needs of your group.  The possibilities are endless.

Presentation Length:  1 – 4 hours

Plant Disease Q&A

Put Brian in the hot seat by asking him your plant disease questions in a non-structured, informal atmosphere.

Presentation Length:  1 – 2 hours

Signs and Symptoms Workshop

Hone your observational skills with this hands-on workshop where participants get to look at a wide range of  diseased plant specimens.  Learn about the wide range of disease symptoms, signs of plant pathogens that you can see by eye and the challenges of properly diagnosing plant diseases.  The session includes a group discussion of the diseases presented in the workshop, as well tips on management of the diseases.

Presentation Length:  3 – 4 hours

Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic Tour

Come visit the Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic.  Learning about clinic services and outreach, and watch clinic staff in action as they work with plant samples to diagnose disease problems.

Combine your visit to the PDDC with a visit to the UW Insect Diagnostics Lab, the Wisconsin Insect Research Collection,  and the Allen Centennial Garden.

Presentation Length:  0.5 – 2 hours

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