Present danger to our living history
IT’S a tough life being a tree. And the older the tree, the tougher it gets.
The Woodland Trust says that almost 84,000 “ancient, veteran or notable trees”, are in danger from a multitude of pests and diseases. Those at risk include 7,000 treasured ash trees which are threatened with dieback.
Ancient trees are the natural equivalent of listed buildings; they’ve stood for hundreds of years and witnessed history. Many have played a crucial role in our past and our folklore, and can never be replaced through replanting.
Sadly, ash dieback is not the only threat to our ancient trees; there are at least 15 known diseases and pests that pose an immediate threat – oak, beech and Scots pine are all under attack.
Not all the dangers facing our ancient trees are natural; some are man-made such as the proposed high-speed rail line. Currently, there are 35 ancient trees in danger from the plan.
Austin Brady, head of conservation at the Woodland Trust, said: “Losing some trees to diseases and pests is all part of life and death in the forest, but to lose our precious ancient trees would be absolutely terrible. These huge stalwarts have taken centuries to grow and their loss would just be devastating, not only for the landscape but also for the environment.
It’s ash, of course, which is in the news at the moment – ash dieback, or Chalara fraxinea, is taking a heavy toll on the nation’s ash population. To see if a tree is suffering from the disease, look at a young branch and scratch off a little of the bark; if it’s green underneath, the tree is healthy; if it’s brown, it’s not.
And watch out for wilting on the leaves, which may become blackened but still stay on the branch, diamond-shape lesions on the trunk or a balding crown.
To find out more about spotting ash dieback and other tree diseases already present in the UK, or to record possible disease in an ancient tree near you, download the Tree Alert app or visit www.forestry.gov.uk
The Ancient Tree Hunt is a living database of ancient trees. It started in 2004 as a joint venture with the Tree Register of the British Isles and the Ancient Tree Forum. More than 115,000 handpicked trees have been recorded across the UK. Woodlandtrust.org.uk www.treedisease.co.uk
KEY TO SUCCESS: A healthy ash tree.