Sudden death for thousands of trees

A deadly disease described as the “foot and mouth” of trees is wiping out forests across the country.

Alamy image: Telegraph

Louise Gray

Sudden oak death arrived in Britain from America, where it decimated the oak population, just under a decade ago via imported plants.

In Britain the disease, officially known as phytophthora ramorum, spared oaks and jumped to rhododendrons and Japanese larch trees. In the last year it has taken hold along the west of the country in larch plantations, including more than 120 Forestry Commission sites, 20 National Trust properties and two Woodland Trust reserves.

Already 4 million trees have been felled or marked for destruction.

More are expected to be chopped down in the coming years because the warmer, wetter conditions expected with climate change encourage the spread of the disease.

In the latest cull, a landowner in the Quantock Hills in Somerset was forced to cut down 50,000 trees, while the National Trust chopped down 10,000 larch trees in the area. Landowners face crippling costs for felling sick trees, while walkers are urged to disinfect boots to stop P. ramorum, which is a fungal disease, spreading on their feet.

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