Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) was first observed in the UK in 2012. A disease that has spread through Europe since the 1990’s has now reached the shores of England and is sweeping through the country having a monumental effect on the landscape around us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things are going to improve any time soon.

We have noticed whilst working in Sheffield and the Peak District that this disease has sadly took hold and will dramatically change the landscape carrying with it a massive impact on the environment.

It’s important that we correctly identify this and manage it early so that we keep Sheffield and the Peak District safe as well as keeping any potential survivors of the disease.

So, what is Ash Dieback? Ash Dieback is a fungal disease which affects the common Ash tree Fraxinus Excelsior and other Fraxinus species. It is caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus Fraxineus which is native to eastern Asia. It’s believed that the disease arrived in Europe and the UK through global free trade in garden plants, and its fungal spores have since spread on the wind.

How does Ash Dieback effect the tree and what to look for? Infection of the disease can lead to leaf loss and dead branches throughout the tree canopy/crown. New clumps of growth will be visible in the or towards the centre of the crown.

If highly infected the disease can cause infection at the base of the tree, this can increase the susceptibility to more pathogens such as Honey Fungus (Armillaria) which is a disease which attacks and kills the roots. This can dramatically deteriorate the tree in as little as four years.

If trees are affected in populated areas, such as in your garden, in schools and parks as well as on the roadway, this can create a serious health and safety risk to the public.

Ash dieback can be hard to identify on mature ash trees as it mostly affects younger ones, the best time for identification is through the summer months as identifying the signs will be more obvious. Visible signs to look for:

1.     Brown patches on the Ash leaves.

2.     Branches dying back, so maybe dead tips of branches with foliage below.

3.     Dark patches or shapes, on the bark called lesions. If the tree is highly infected these could be at the base of the tree

4.     In severe cases other pathogens or diseases could be visible such as Honey Fungus.

The impact of Ash Dieback could be monumental but it’s important that we manage it correctly. A small percentage of Ash trees will survive and be tolerant to the disease, in these cases these trees could be used for repopulating our landscape. It’s also been noted that where certain sites have been well managed and in open spaces fewer symptoms have been observed. So, there is a tiny glimpse of hope.

How can Silver Oak Arboriculture help? At Silver Oak we want to help manage Ash Dieback, if you have an Ash tree in your garden, in any public areas and you’re unsure whether your tree is affected by Ash Dieback. We will come out and help identify whether or not a plan needs to be made to care for the tree. Whether this involves giving the tree time to see if any more symptoms develop or whether sadly this involves removing the tree due to concerns over safety to the public.

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