Ash tree disease found for first time in Wales

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Forestry Commission Wales has confirmed the discovery of a serious disease of ash trees for the first time in Wales.

Chalara dieback of ash has been found in a small, privately-owned young broadleaved woodland in Carmarthenshire. The trees, which were planted in 2009, are still quite small and measures are being put in place to minimise the risk of the disease spreading to the wider environment.

A containment notice will be issued shortly for the site and FC Wales will work with the woodland owner to deal with the infected trees.

The discovery follows a rapid survey of the whole of Wales over the past four days to check the condition of the country’s ash trees as plant health authorities across the United Kingdom stepped up their efforts to tackle the disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea.

FC Wales and Welsh Government representatives attended a tree health summit in London today (Wednesday, 7 November) to discuss the current position and start the development of an action plan for tackling the disease in the UK.

Environment Minister John Griffiths said, “This is a serious disease and we, along with our colleagues in the Forestry Commission, Defra, the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Forest Service, are taking steps to tackle this disease as a matter of the utmost urgency.

“Today’s tree health summit, along with the evidence we gather from our surveys, will enable us to develop our long-term strategy for dealing with this disease.”

The disease was recorded for the first time in Britain earlier this year at a car park in Leicestershire and subsequently at several sites in the south-east of England and Scotland.

The UK Government imposed a ban on imports and movements of ash plants and seeds into and within Great Britain last week.

John Browne, Forestry Commission Wales’s Head of Forest Regulation and Tree Health, said, “Wind borne spores are the main mechanism for the disease to spread in the wider environment, typically during August and September. We now have a window to capture the best scientific advice to help shape our response.

“However, now that we have found the first case of the disease in Wales, we believe that more infected trees could be discovered here.”

Chalara poses no risk to human or animal health. There is no need to restrict public access to woodlands either, but people are asked to behave responsibly and to be aware that the main source of spread is from the transport of infected ash plant parts, in particular the shoots and leaves from mature ash trees and the whole tree in the case of infected young ash transplants.

When visiting the countryside, people are asked not to move ash trees and leaves and take steps to remove the mud from their boots, clothes, bicycles, baby buggies, dogs, carriages and other items.

Further information, including a pictorial symptoms guide and videos showing pictures of the symptoms of Chalara dieback of ash, is available on the Forestry Commission’s website at


1. Further information about Chalara dieback of ash is available from the Forestry Commission’s website at

2. There are 15,348 hectares of ash in Wales which represents 5% of the 304,000 hectares of all woodlands in the country. The species is important for its timber, firewood, wildlife, biodiversity and landscape benefits.

3. Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is a deciduous species native to much of Europe, including the British Isles. After oak and birch, it is the third most common native broadleaf tree in Great Britain. Ash timber is a dense, strong but flexible, easily worked hardwood which was traditionally used for making tool handles and furniture. Usage has declined in these markets because of the advent of other materials, but the timber is still sought after for flooring and high-end, bespoke uses. It also makes excellent firewood, smoking wood and barbecue charcoal

4. As, until now, ash trees have not been of concern in terms of the pests and diseases they might carry, the trade in ash plants between EU Member States is not subject to plant health controls. Member States may, however, consider a case for legislation to control ash imports from areas where pests and diseases of concern are known to be present. To do this, a Member State must show that a given pest or disease is not established in all or part of its territory. Fera published a pest risk assessment drafted by the Forestry Commission’s Forest Research agency. This provides the necessary initial evidence to inform immediate action against this disease, and will be the first step towards making a case for legislation to protect the UK from further imports of ash trees which might introduce Chalara fraxinea. The risk assessment is available at

5. Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales press officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email