Kent's mighty oaks

PUBLISHED: 10:09 30 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:55 20 February 2013

Kent’s mighty oaks

Kent’s mighty oaks

Is tree disease a real threat for Kent? We investigate the spread of 'sudden oak death' and why vigilance is so important

Kents mighty oaks


Is tree disease a real threat for Kent? We investigate the spread of sudden oak death and why vigilance is so important


With approximately twice the national average woodland coverage, Kent has reason to value its trees. So how fearful should we be of sudden oak death, a term which has been bandied about in the media during the past year?


The image of our countryside bereft of its mighty oaks is hard to contemplate. Those with an interest in the subject and a long memory will recall that the first incidence of this fungus-like disease (phytophthora ramorum to give it its proper name) in the UK was in neighbouring Sussex in 2003 on a southern red oak. In fact, it was the first example outside North America.


I have some reassurance and a warning. Sudden oak death is a misleading term when applied to this country. While the disease has killed off millions of oaks in California and Oregon, our native oaks are strongly resistant to phytophthora ramorum, unlike their North American cousins (of which southern red oak is one). So the prospect of a Dutch elm disease scenario playing out among our native oaks is remote.


But the disease is threatening nonetheless. In this country P. ramorum is more accurately referred to as larch die back as this is the species it affects most widely. Beech trees in Cornwall have also succumbed, which is concerning locally as beech thrives on chalk downland. It also attacks certain ornamental species in gardens and has spread to rhododendron in the wild (the latter will not be an entirely unwelcome effect). There has also been an instance of a sweet chestnut being affected.


Heading east


The disease was found in larch woodlands in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset last autumn and in the past month or so suspicious sites have been located in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Wales. It appears to be heading east. This is a worrying development and it is important that woodland owners take swift and decisive action to contain this disease.


Control of P. ramorum is difficult because it spreads so easily. Rain, mists and air currents are all it needs to travel several miles. It can also be spread on the footwear of people who have been walking in infected areas, and on dogs paws, bicycle wheels, tools and equipment. Movement of infected plants is also a key means of spreading it over long distances.


So at this time of year, when many of us have headed west for our holidays, it would be sensible to clean off any footwear you have used when out walking. Also, if you plan any tree planting in the coming months, make sure the nursery provides you with a written guarantee that the trees supplied are entirely free from any phytophthora the ramorum is one of many phytophthora which exist, but the only one understood to be a problem in this country at the time of writing.


Typical symptoms


Typical symptoms on rhododendron include leaf-blackening, wilted shoots and die-back. On individual leaves, blackening of the leaf stalk usually extends into the leaf along the mid-vein, although blackening at the leaf tip can also occur. Disease progress can be so rapid that shoots wilt and the leaves hang down.


On trees, symptoms are lesions sometimes known as bleeding cankers - which can dry to a crust on the trunk.The inner bark under this bleeding area is usually discoloured and dying. Trees die when the lesions become extensive on the main trunk.


The Forestry Commission is of course taking all sensible actions to prevent the spread of P. Ramorum. The disease is notifiable, and if people find it on their property they should contact the Forestry Commission immediately at southeast.fce@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or on 01420 23666.


Country Land and Business Association (CLA)


www.cla.org.uk


www.cfeonline.org


More from Out & About

As the world slows down, we turn our eyes to the skies in search of the best places to watch some celestial wonders this summer

Read more

Here are 12 places that may have flown under your radar before but are well worth seeking out

Read more

Kent is blessed with fine and indeed famous country houses, but over the decades has lost as many of its grander houses as it retains. A new book by Martin Easdown reveals 120 examples that have simply disappeared

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take our quiz to see if you can decipher the town or place in Kent from the emojis

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Enjoy three of Kent’s best and most loved cycle rides which take in lots of the county’s beautiful coastlines

Read more

We look ahead to the end of lockdown and to a quiet seaside resort we can’t wait to visit again – Herne Bay

Read more

Hythe and New Romney, with their peaceful marshes, abundant wildlife and beautiful coastline, are the perfect places to explore when we’re allowed to travel again

Read more
Friday, June 12, 2020

We’ve gathered six of the best dog-friendly pubs in Kent to enjoy a bite to eat after a scenic stroll

Read more

Try these Kent-themed ideas for the ultimate ‘stay-cation’ – without having to move further away from home than the garden gate

Read more
Monday, June 8, 2020

Picnic baskets at the ready because we have gathered 10 of the best places to enjoy a picnic in stunning rural Kent

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life