Ash Dieback Disease (Hymenoscyphus Fraxineus)
Ash trees (botanical name Faxinus excelsior) are the third most common trees in Britain according to the Woodland Trust, and they can live up to 400 years! They’re everywhere – their tall, graceful canopies dominating woodland, popping up in hedgerows and colonising brown field sites.
Sadly these wildlife friendly familiar native trees with their useful hard wood timber are suffering from a scourge similar to the deadly Dutch Elm Disease which killed off so many of that species from the 1970s onwards.
The Ash is being attacked by a fungus with the mouthful of a name Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, giving rise to a fatal disease known as Chalara Ash Dieback.
Ash Dieback, believed to have originated in East Asia, first appeared in Europe in Poland in 1992 and didn’t waste any time sweeping through the continent. It arrived in Britain in 2012, as far as experts can tell, and since then the number of affected trees within our shores has continued to grow rapidly.
The nasty fungus blocks the water transport system in Ash trees, resulting in a loss of leaves, lesions in the wood and bark, and ultimately the dieback of the crown of the tree.
Numerous agencies and organisations – including the Woodland Trust, Defra and the Forestry Commission – are researching Ash dieback and issuing guidelines to help us identify, treat and hopefully prevent the spread of the disease.
Here at West Country Tree Services we have come across a number of affected Ash trees in our area, and we keep ourselves well informed on the latest scientific guidelines for dealing with this scourge.
Our main concern with our management of Ash trees especially in urban areas is that weakened, diseased trees pose a threat – through falling branches – to people, passing vehicles, railways and buildings. As tree lovers, we also don’t want to lose these attractive green giants from our landscape.
It’s vital that owners of private land where Ash trees grow be familiar with the signs and symptoms of Ash dieback in order to spot affected trees, because the infection is easily spread as the fungal spores travel on the wind.
How to recognise Ash Dieback
Trees of all ages can be affected by Ash Dieback, but mature trees tend to live with the symptoms for longer, while saplings die quickly once it takes hold.
It’s best to inspect your trees in the summer when the symptoms are more noticeable, and a healthy tree should have a full crown.
On the foliage you’ll notice wilting, withering and brown/black discolouration of the leaves and leaf stalk. On the branches and stems there will be diamond-shaped lesions around dead side shoots. Underneath the lesions on the bark the wood will be stained, the staining penetrating the branch or stem longitudinally. As the infection progresses the crown of the tree will decline.
If you suspect you have infected Ash trees on your property, call us in to take a look and if it proves to be the case we can explain the consequences and options for dealing with the situation.
There’s no legal obligation to fell infected Ash trees, but it’s helpful for research to report your sick trees to the Forestry Commission, through their online Tree Alert reporting service.
You can learn more about Ash Dieback from the Forestry Commission’s leaflet Managing Ash Dieback in England which is available to download. Bath & North East Somerset Council also has some useful information online about Ash Dieback Disease in our local area.
There’s no known cure for Ash dieback, but we at West Country Tree Services are qualified to give you professional guidance on how to take public safety precautions and practice biosecurity to prevent the spread of the disease. If necessary, we can safely remove the diseased tree and dispose of it responsibly.
West Country Tree Services is committed to keeping trees healthy and happy. If you have concerns about Ash Dieback in Wiltshire or north east Somerset give us a call on 01225 345137 or use the Contact Form on our website