Ashes to ashes

Ash tree
Ash tree
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Here we go again – it’s tree time.

From November 24 until December 2, it’s National Tree Week and the chance for anyone and everyone to do something good for their country, their community and themselves.

First mounted in 1975, National Tree Week is the UK’s now the largest annual tree celebration launching the start of the winter tree-planting season.

National Tree Week provides a wonderful opportunity for communities to do something positive for the environment.

Each year, Tree Council member organisations, such as voluntary bodies and local authorities, hundreds of schools and community groups, 8,000 Tree Wardens and many others, support the initiative by organising events to encourage ordinary people to get outdoors and get their hands dirty.

National Tree Week arrives just weeks after the discovery, in England, of a potentially lethal threat to the country’s ash trees – a discovery which has brought a ban on the importation of ash trees and their movement around the country.

Experts say that if the disease, Chalara fraxinea, becomes established, it could have a similar impact on the landscape as Dutch elm disease had in the 1970s. That means that up to 90 per cent of Britain’s ash trees could be wiped out.

And ash make up nearly a third of the forests and other woodland areas in the British Isles, so the disease could have a devastating effect on the entire countryside.

Chalara fraxinea (C. fraxinea) has caused widespread damage to ash tree populations in continental Europe, especially common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), including its ‘Pendula’ ornamental variety. Fraxinus angustifolia is also susceptible to the disease.

The blight causes dieback and is particularly destructive among young ash plants, killing them within one growing season of symptoms becoming visible. Older trees can survive initial attacks, but tend to succumb eventually after several seasons of infection.

It was unknown in Great Britain until recently, but the first cases were confirmed in a nursery in Buckinghamshire early in 2012, on ash plants which had been imported from the Netherlands. Since then, more infected plants have been confirmed in nurseries in West and South Yorkshire, Surrey, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

More than 50,000 trees have been destroyed in a bid to stop the disease spreading but the future for Britain’s ashes looks bleak. Only time will tell.,