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Stackyard News Oct 2012

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Don’t Plant Any Ash Trees

That’s the message from Richard Hunter, arboriculturalist with H&H Land and Property following the first suspected case of Ash Dieback Disease in the North East.

Ash trees at dawn in the Cumbrian mountains

Ash trees

With the Ash tree facing an uncertain future, the safest policy for anyone considering planting them is - not to plant them.

As the latest threat to Britain from foreign invasion,Ash Dieback [or Chalara fraxinea] could create the same kind of destruction as it has in Denmark – where 60-90% of ash trees have already succumbed to the disease. Now the subject of media controversy, the future long term consequences for the tree are impossible to predict. Whether the Ash will go the way of the Elm is uncertain at present. However there is one thing we can do, says Richard, and that’s avoid planting Ash trees.

Richard describes the role of the Ash in the countryside today;

“The Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) is one of the most common trees across our landscape. It is quick growing and adapts to most sites; it is quite happy within woodland or standing tall and alone in a hedgerow, visible for miles. It is one of a small number of trees that have been filling the void left by Elms ever since Dutch Elm disease all but wiped out our stock of English Elm.”

He tells us what affects the disease has on an infected tree:

“The Fungus causes the leaves and young shoots to die back, then often girdles the branches and stems – killing them. This is the easiest time to spot infected trees as the tips of the branches will be leafless. In winter the disease will be become harder to spot and therefore control. Look for dead spots or lesions near the ends of the twigs and around leaf scars. If you suspect that your trees are infected, call the Forestry Commissions Forest Research Disease Advisory Service on 01420 23000.”

Ash Dieback has only recently arrived from the continent, it is believed, on young plants from the Netherlands. Anyone planting Ash trees in the last 5 years should check them for signs of the disease.

The only way to stop the spread of the fungus is to fell the tree, but even then the timber and wood chip could still pose a risk of contaminating further sites if not handled with care. It is not the only problem affecting Ash trees but has the potential to cause the most damage.

As Richard says: “If you are thinking of planting trees this season, I would choose a different species until we know the impact this fungus will have”.

Richard can offer specialist advice based on tree and woodland inspections. This will ensure that your woodland does not pose a risk to others and that through the planning or developing stages, the effect on trees and woodland management is minimised. For more information contact H&H Land and Property on 01228 406 260.

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