Ash Dieback, a disease of Ash trees caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, was first discovered in Britain in 2012, and probably originated from infected plant material imported from the Netherlands. It has since been found in wild Ash trees in Suffolk, Kent and Essex. Symptoms include blackened leaves and brown lesions on Ash stems and branches (but don’t forget that Ash trees will be naturally losing their leaves at this time of year).
At present the main area of the outbreak appears to be confined to East Anglia, but further spread seems inevitable. The disease is mainly spread by the wind and may be spread by other means such as logs or movements of other infected material or even as simply as spores of the fungus being spread via contact with people of vehicles.
The implications for our native Ash are very serious and may mean significant loss of trees across Great Britain, comparable to the Dutch Elm disease epidemic of the 1970s. Indeed, since Ash is commoner and more widespread than Elm ever was, the impact could be even greater.
It is unrealistic to expect the disease not to spread to trees all around Britain, but we can take certain steps to control its spread. Tower Hamlets Council has imposed strict internal controls of movement of logs or woodchips on land controlled by the Council. Here is how you can help:
Tree Planting – If you’re proposing to plant an Ash tree this winter, please ensure that you know where the tree comes from and preferably establish that the nursery has biosecurity measures in place. The Tree Officer of Tower Hamlets Council can provide impartial advice on these matters (see contact details below).
Infected trees – Do you think your Ash tree is infected? If so please call us and we can come and inspect the tree.
Logs and firewood – winter is just around the corner and Ash is the best firewood due to its low water content and bright flame. Please be careful where you buy your logs from! If you are planning to stock up with firewood, please check with Tower Hamlets Council, we can advise and assist you with locally sourced firewood with the lowest environmental impacts.
Tower Hamlets Homes has also stopped movement of Ash logs or woodchip on its land, and has suspended all non-emergency work on Ash trees on its estates. If you think you’ve found Ash Dieback on a tree in a Tower Hamlets Homes estate, please e-mail Estates Services.
For any advice or a chat about Ash Dieback or any other tree related issues, please contact the Council’s Tree Officer on 020 7364 3282 or by e-mail.
Photos courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright.