Ash trees need your help
Ash dieback disease is a fungal infection caused by Chalara fraxinea. The disease causes leaf loss and crown die back in affected trees. Infected trees are unlikely to survive and it is predicted that over 90% of Britain’s ash trees could be lost to the infection. Young trees are likely to die in the first season of infection with large mature trees taking several years to die.
As of 6 January 2015 the infection has been confirmed at 949 sites throughout the UK, 26 in nurseries, 398 on newly planted sites and 525 in the wider environment. For up to date figures visit the Forestry Commission website here. Most of the infected sites are in the south east and some of these infections may have been caused by wind carried spores from the continent. Few infected sites have been identified in the south west, most of which are on recently planted sites; although on one site trees in the wider environment have been infected.
What does ash die back disease look like?
There are a wide range of symptoms associated with ash dieback including
• foliage wilt – black/brown leaves may be retained
• shoot dieback with brownish to orange discolouration, often multiple shoots
• elongated angular stem lesions, often diamond shaped
• small white fruiting bodies growing on stalks of fallen ash leaves
• staining of wood under bark
For further information on identifying the disease click here to visit the Forestry Commission’s web site
What to do if you spot unhealthy ash trees
Any suspected sighting should be reported to the Forestry Commission via the Chalara helpline (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Forestry Commission or FERA will investigate and if a case is confirmed they will take appropriate action. Unlike Phytophtora DEFRA is not recommending total removal of infected trees, they are requiring the removal of infected trees in nurseries and on newly planted sites, but woodland and hedgerow trees will be left in situ. It is hoped that some trees will show resistance to the disease and they can used as a seed source for the next generation.
The wildlife of ash trees
Ash supports much wildlife, with quite a few species depending solely on the tree for their survival. Trunks frequently support rich moss and lichen communities, and moths like the Coronet are dependent on it – their caterpillars will eat only ash leaves. The seeds, or ‘keys’, provide much food for birds, including rarities like the Hawfinch, and when they fall to the ground for small mammals. Rot holes in ash are particularly good for rare flies and beetles, while other signs of maturity, like cracks, splits and hollows, provide roosting and breeding places for many types of bat.
Devon’s hedges are truly world class. In a country famed for its hedgerows, Devon has a larger and more intact hedgerow heritage than any other county in Britain. Most of the county’s hedgerows are ancient, dating back to Medieval times or before, and through their rich and intricate patterns tell the story of Devon’s landscape and farming traditions over many centuries. They are a distinctive feature of our countryside, important culturally, of great value to wildlife including threatened species like the dormouse, and deliver numerous other public benefits like soil protection, water regulation and carbon storage.
The Devon Hedge Group
The Devon Hedge Group is a forum of organisations and individuals interested in working together to promote the appreciation and conservation of hedges found across the county. Members of the Group represent the full range of interests associated with hedges in Devon, including agriculture, the conservation of wildlife and landscape, and historical and cultural values.