As we move towards high summer this year and ash trees come into full leaf, we will gain a much better picture of the impact ash dieback disease has had so far across the UK. Sadly we are not just concerned about the impact of ash dieback; you may have heard us in the media in recent weeks saying a lot about it, but a plethora of other potential diseases and pests that could affect trees and our very special heritage of ancient trees in particular.
There are at least 15 known diseases and pests that pose an immediate threat. These include Acute oak decline and the oak processionary moth, Phytopthora Kernoviae which affects oak and beech, and Dothistroma needle blight which affects Scots pine.
One of our lead verifiers for the Ancient Tree Hunt, Steve Waters, helped us with some BBC filming at the Trust’s Hucking Wood in Kent.
Rob McBride, another of the Woodland Trust’s most active volunteers, has sent us some images taken during his family visit to Poland and added to his blog site. These images of trees that have had the disease for some time help us with the identification of affected trees. Especially interesting are the ones showing the ‘witches broom’ effect in the crowns of young trees.
Other ways of identifying ash dieback includes looking at a young branch and scratching off a little of the bark, if it is green underneath the tree is healthy, if it is brown it is not. Watch out for wilting on the leaves, which may throughout the summer become more blackened but still stay on the branch, diamond-shape lesions on the trunk or a balding crown.
To find out more about spotting ash dieback and other tree diseases already present in the UK, or to record possible disease in an ancient tree near you download the Tree Alert app or visit www.forestry.gov.uk.
It is now possible to record the impact of ash dieback when recording your finds on the Ancient Tree Hunt website www.ancienttreehunt.org.uk:
You can upload images to the record to show the signs of disease and add more as the years go by to show how the tree reacts over time. We may find some very valuable resistant trees this way.
At the Woodland Trust we are looking at ways to fight tree disease and we will be holding a conference in June with some of the top minds in conservation, forestry and tree health to find a way forward for our country’s trees and woods. We need you to help please, by getting into the great outdoors, looking at trees and checking them for signs of disease, so we have as accurate a picture of the situation as possible.
Jill Butler, Conservation Adviser (Ancient Trees)