Ash dieback – what to look out for and what to do when you find it
Ash dieback, or Chalara Fraxinea Dieback, looks set to be one of the major news stories of 2013 as the deadly tree pathogen fungus moves from East Anglia and the South East to gardens, parks, woods and streets across the UK.
With more than 80 million ash trees in the UK, the variety is the most common in the country so ash dieback has the potential to be even more devastating than Dutch elm disease in the 1960s to 1980s. That outbreak saw around 25 million Dutch elm trees killed and major changes to our natural landscape.
If ash dieback spreads as many experts fear, we could experience an even more dramatic change to natural environment and the impact on our wildlife living in ash-heavy habitats could be catastrophic.
The sheer number of ash trees in Britain makes them a vital habitat for birds and insects and the nature of the trees’ branch structures means flora such as bluebells and wild garlic thrive in the well-lit ground surrounding the ash’s distinctive trunks.
Extensive testing by Government scientists has revealed a number of characteristics about the fungus. These include the fact that once a tree is infected, it cannot be cured, all ash species are vulnerable, the spores which carry the infection are produced from infected dead leaves between June and September, the disease is air-borne, treated wood products won’t spread the disease and once infected, trees will show signs within just months.
The winter has temporarily contained ash dieback, which was first spotted in the UK in nurseries and woods in East Anglia, but the onset of spring looks set to bring with it a rise in the number and geographic spread of cases.
Defra has launched an app for the public to use to report suspected cases of the disease. The agency is urging members of the public to use the app to send them details if they spot the telltale signs of:
- – Dead or dying tree tops and wilting leaves
- – Lesions and cankers on stems, branches or shoots
- – Dieback of leaves with brown/black leaf stalks
- – Fruiting bodies on fallen blacked leaf stalks or staining of wood under bark lesions
Advice has been issued by Defra to homeowners who suspect they have infected ash trees on their property. While there is no obligation to follow any guidance, government officials are advising the public to be vigilant and to prune or remove trees if there is a risk of them or their branches falling and causing damage or injury. Defra is also urging people to help stop the spread of the disease by collecting and burning, composting or burying fallen leaves.
Detailed advice and guidance can be found on the Defra site – http://localhost/clientswww.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-92gefh