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Tree felling at Idless Woods

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Japanese larch infected with Phytophthora ramorum being felled at Plym Woods, Devon

Tree felling will start at the Forestry Commission’s Idless Woods near Truro on Monday, 22 November, as part of the continued fight against the virulent ramorum disease .

Acting on the best scientific advice, 27 hectares of infected Japanese larch trees are being felled to try to prevent the disease spreading, from the foliage of the larch trees to other larch trees as well as other species.

The disease, caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, was first discovered in autumn 2009 to have jumped from rhododendron, which was its previously known main host in Britain, , to Japanese larch trees.  Since then the Forestry Commission has been surveying its woodlands in South West England to identify infected sites, and has been working closely with local landowners who have infected trees on their land.

John Ebsary, area forester for Cornwall, says:

“We have already felled 30 hectares of infected larch trees in the Glyn Valley, and we now have to carry this work out in Idless.  It is disappointing having to fell trees before they reach full maturity, but we have to try and contain the disease and prevent any further spread. 

”The work will mean some areas of the forest are closed to the public for short periods for safety reasons, but we will try to keep disruption to an absolute minimum.  Visitors to the forest can help minimise the spread of the disease by following simple biosecurity instructions on signs around the area.  These include washing footwear before leaving the forest.”

The current round of felling is expected to continue until winter 2011.  For further information please contact the Forestry Commission’s Bodmin office on 01208 72577.

Notes to Editor

  1. The disease was first discovered by the Forestry Commission to have jumped from its previously known main host, rhododendron, to Japanese larch in Autumn 2009. We immediately initiated a rapid survey across Forestry Commission woodland in the South West, which identified 14 additional infected sites.   In recent months, we have undertaken a detailed and extensive programme of aerial surveys covering the whole of the west of the country – running from the South West, through Wales and up into Western Scotland.  These surveys have identified 230 suspicious sites across England and Wales of which 36 have confirmed infections.

  2. Suspected infections should be reported to:
    •  in South West England - Forestry Commission England, Mamhead Castle, Mamhead, Nr Exeter, Devon EX6 8HD; tel: 01626 890666; e-mail:;
    •  in woodland elsewhere – the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service on; tel 0131 314 6414;
    •  in non-woodland trees such as those in gardens, parks, streets and farmland - Forest Research’s Disease Diagnostic Advisory Service on; telephone 01420 23000.

  3. Ramorum disease has been confirmed in Japanese larch trees (Larix kaempferi) in woodland managed by Forestry Commission Wales in the Afan Valley near Port Talbot, in Garw Valley near Bridgend, and the Vale of Glamorgan. In South West England it has been confirmed in a mix of Forestry Commission England and privately owned forests, including the Commission’s Largin Wood in Cornwall, Plym Woods east of Plymouth, and Canonteign Woods near Exeter.

  4. P. ramorum has not been found on any trees in Scotland.

  5. P. ramorum can be spread on footwear, vehicle wheels, tools and machinery, by the movement of infected plants, and in rain, mists and air currents.

  6. Infected plants such as rhododendron are usually destroyed by burning or deep burial. Infected trees are usually felled to kill the living plant tissue on which the pathogen depends.

  7. P. ramorum is a ‘quarantine’ organism under European Union law and its presence on trees or woodland plants must be notified to the relevant authorities (Forestry Commission, Fera, Scottish Government, and the Welsh Assembly Government).

  8. Infected Japanese larch trees produce particularly high numbers of the inoculum that spreads the disease – five times the level produced on rhododendron - meaning the disease can quickly affect a large number of trees and shrubs.

  9. P. ramorum has not been found infecting any European larch (Larix decidua) or hybrid larch (Larix x eurolepsis) trees, but these species are being kept under close surveillance.

  10. Complete figures are not available for Japanese larch alone, but all three larch species together cover an estimated 134,000 hectares in Britain, or about 5 per cent of total woodland. Individual country figures are:
    • Wales – 23,000ha / 8 per cent;
    • England – 47,000ha / 4.3 per cent;
    • Scotland – 65,000 ha / 5.1 per cent.
    (To convert hectares to acres, multiply by 2.47)

  11. Larch is a durable, versatile timber that tolerates changes between wet and dry conditions very well, and resists rotting when used in the ground. It is therefore in demand for outdoor uses such as fence posts, fence panels, exterior wall cladding, boats, sheds and furniture, as well as indoor uses such as flooring and chipboard. It is easily stained, worked and finished.

    For pictures, and information about P. ramorum in:
    • Forestry Commission South West England – Kirstie Smith, 01392 834249/07920 751106
    • Forestry Commission England – Stuart Burgess, 0117 372 1073;
    • Forestry Commission Great Britain  (Plant Health matters in general) – Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500;