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NEWS RELEASE No: 145904 MAY 2011

Tree felling at Idless Woods

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Tree felling will start at the Forestry Commission’s Idless Woods, near Truro, at the end of this week, 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 discovered infecting Japanese larch trees for the first time anywhere in the world in South West England in autumn 2009. As well as being killed by the disease, the larch trees were also producing very high quantities of the infective spores that spread it. Since then the Forestry Commission has been surveying its woodlands in South West England and elsewhere 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 100 hectares of infected larch trees in and around the Glyn Valley near Bodmin, and we now have to carry this work out in Idless.  It is disappointing having to fell trees before they reach full maturity, but the trees are dying from this disease and we have to try to contain it 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.

“Meanwhile, we want to thank all those woodland owners who have helped us to tackle this disease over the past two years. We also want to urge everyone who owns or works with trees to be always on the lookout for signs of disease, and to report them to us. Constant vigilance and remvoving the infective material quickly are going to be key to getting on top of this problem.”

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

Notes to Editors

  1. Ramorum disease has caused widespread infection of larch trees in Wales, especially southern Wales; at one small site in western Scotland; and at several sites in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 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, Canonteign Woods near Exeter, and Idless Woods. A total of 2223 hectares of larch woodland in the United Kingdom has either been felled or will be felled in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading. Aerial surveys have resumed for 2011 to check for symptoms in the new spring foliage on larch trees, and these have revealed more sites that will be investigated.

  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. 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.

  4. Infected plants such as rhododendron – which was P. ramorum’s main ‘host’ in Britain before it began infecting larch trees - are usually destroyed by burning or deep burial. Infected trees are usually felled to kill the living plant tissue on which the pathogen depends.

  5. 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).

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

  7. P. ramorum infection was confirmed on a European larch (Larix decidua) for the first time in March 2011. However, it is too early to tell whether it will sporulate (produce infective spores) on European larch and, if it does, how heavily it will sporulate. Hybrid larch (Larix x eurolepsis) trees are also being kept under close surveillance.

  8. P. ramorum infection has also been confirmed in Ireland on a single young Sitka spruce, the most important timber species grown in Britain. However, laboratory test results and the circumstances of the infected tree, which was standing under a heavily infected rhododendron bush, lead our scientists to believe that the find does not represent an increase in the threat to Sitka spruce.

  9. Larch trees 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)

  10. 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:
• South West England – Kirstie Smith, 01392 834249 / 07920 751106
• England in general – Stuart Burgess, 0117 372 1073;
• Great Britain (Plant and Tree Health matters in general) – Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500.