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Ash dieback

Ash dieback

PUBLISHED ON: 7 OCTOBER 2020

You may have heard of a disease called ash dieback – otherwise known as chalara – which is affecting some trees in the UK.

This disease, caused by a fungus, blocks the tree’s water transport system. It spreads via spores blown by the wind and can travel at least 10 miles.

Ash is only a minor component in the New Forest due to the acidic, nutrient-poor soils and is generally only found in small numbers in hedgerows, or as an occasional roadside tree. The impact has therefore not been anything like elsewhere in the country, which is sadly seeing many ash trees felled.

Nik Gruber, Senior Tree officer at the New Forest National Park Authority said: ‘Fortunately, our predominant species in the New Forest is oak and beech. However, there are many ash trees in hedgerows, farmland, parks and gardens, in rural and urban locations across Hampshire and the New Forest.

‘Each year, our partners Forestry England and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have to fell a number of trees where they present a potential health and safety hazard.’

Approximately 30 smaller trees were felled in a group in Minstead last year. Removing these trees not only helps to make the woodlands safer, but also helps to manage the spread of the disease and allows more light into the forest to help new, healthier and more diverse native trees to grow.

Ash also features in Forestry England’s roadside safety surveys to ensure the conditions at the road edges are favourable, with fortunately only a small number having to be felled in the New Forest area this year.

Michael Pittock from Forestry England, said: ‘Finding ash dieback doesn’t mean we have to remove every ash tree. Those trees showing tolerance are kept and monitored, and the gaps left by felling will benefit those young seedlings on the forest floor by giving them more light and space.’

Visitors can also do their bit to help local trees by cleaning dogs, buggies, bikes and feet after every woodland visit, lessening the potential for spreading infections such as chalara.

Trees with ash dieback can be identified by their dark, withered leaves.

The Woodland Trust says that all affected trees – young or old – will have these symptoms:

  • Leaves develop dark patches in the summer.
  • They then wilt and discolour to black. Leaves might shed early.
  • Dieback of the shoots and leaves is visible in the summer.
  • Lesions develop where branches meet the trunk. These are often diamond-shaped and dark brown.
  • Inner bark looks brownish-grey under the lesions.
  • New growth starts from previously dormant buds further down the trunk. This is a common response to stress in trees.

If you see a tree in your garden, street, park or local area that you think has been affected by the disease please do report it.

This helps to build a picture of the spread of the disease. Sightings can be reported at https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/tree-alert/

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