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Tree felling at Cardinham Woods to combat disease

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

Tree felling will start this month at the Forestry Commission’s Cardinham Woods, near Bodmin, as part of the continuing effort to bring the virulent ramorum disease of larch trees under control.

Acting on the best scientific advice, about 11,000 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 plant species.

During December felling will also start at Dunmere Wood and East Wood, which also have infected Japanese Larch trees. 

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, larch trees also produce very high quantities of the infective spores that spread it. Since then the Forestry Commission has been surveying woodlands in South West England and elsewhere to identify and treat 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 infected larch trees in and around the Glyn Valley near Bodmin and at Idless Woods near Truro, and we now have to carry this work out in Cardinham, Dunmere and East Woods. It is disappointing having to fell trees before they reach full maturity, but the trees are dying from this highly destructive disease, and we have to try to contain it and prevent any further spread. 

“The work will mean some areas of Cardinham 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.

“Users of the Camel Trail could also be affected by the felling at East Wood, but again we are working hard to keep disruption to a minimum, and ask that people pay close attention to signage in the area.

“Meanwhile, we want to thank all those woodland owners who have helped us to tackle this disease over the past two years and to the visitors to our forests for their patience while the work is carried out. 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 removing the infective material quickly are going to be key to getting on top of this problem.”

The current round of felling will be completed by 31 March 2012.  For further local information contact the Forestry Commission’s Bodmin office on 01208 72577. Further information about the disease is available from .

Notes to Editor:

  1. Ramorum disease has caused widespread infection of larch trees in South West England and south Wales, and there have also been outbreaks in Staffordshire, the Peak District, North West England, western Scotland ,Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. An estimated 3 million larch trees have been felled in the UK since 2009 in the effort to bring it under control. 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.
  2. Suspected infections on larch trees in England should be reported to ; tel. 0117 372 1070. A guide to recognising the symptoms is available from . 
  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 on which P. ramorum “sporulates” (produces infective spores) are usually felled to kill the living foliage on which the pathogen depends, preferably before the next sporulation season.
  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), which must take action to contain or eradicate it.
  6. Infected Japanese larch trees produce particularly high numbers of the inoculum that spreads the disease, which can be spread many metres from tall trees  meaning the disease can quickly affect a large number of trees and shrubs.
  7. 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)
  8. 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. P ramorum does not harm the timber, so logs from infected larch trees may be sold into the timber market provided they are handled only by Forestry Commission-authorised hauliers and processors who practise ‘biosecurity’ measures to prevent accidental spread of the disease during timber movement and processing.


  • South West England – Kirstie Smith, 01392 834249 / 07920 751106;
  • P. ramorum in Great Britain overall – Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500;
  • Pictures to illustrate bona fide editorial material about P. ramorum are available free of charge. Preview the Forestry Commission picture library on line at, note the catalogue numbers of images you wish to order, and contact, who can download and send high-resolution versions.