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Larch trees in Chawton Park Wood, near Four Marks, will be felled during September to help control an outbreak of a tree disease.
The trees are dying of ramorum disease, caused by a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora ramorum, and cutting them down is the only way to limit its spread to other trees and plants.
Bruce Rothnie, the Commission’s South England District manager, said:
“Ramorum disease is very destructive to many species of trees and other plants, so we have a legal obligation and a duty to our neighbours to remove the infected trees as quickly as possible to protect other trees and plants.
“This is part of our tried and tested approach to disease control which has successfully slowed the spread of the infection to reduce tree losses.
“We will also ensure new trees will be grown in their place as quickly as possible.
“We are fortunate that only a relatively small area of the woodland will be affected - about four hectares (10 acres) – and that Chawton Park is already a very diverse woodland, so the overall impact on the woodland will be no greater than that of a normal forestry operation.”
The affected area, which includes the Sustrans cycle route, will be cordoned off for safety reasons during the felling operations, with alternative routes signposted. The remainder of the woods will remain open to visitors, and Mr Rothnie said the work and the access restrictions should be finished by the end of September.
Mr Rothnie encouraged woodland owners, park managers and gardeners to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of ramorum disease from the website below, and the plants which it can affect, and to inspect their trees and plants regularly. They should report any suspicious symptoms on trees to the Forestry Commission, and on other plants to the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA).
“The sooner we can identify and tackle a problem, the better we can protect other trees and plants in the area from this disease,” he said.
More information about ramorum disease is available at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- The Phytophthora ramorum organism is thought to have originated in Asia and been accidentally introduced to Europe and Great Britain in the international trade in live plants. It was first found in Britain on a viburnum plant in a Sussex nursery in 2002, and it was first found affecting larch trees, in South-west England, in 2009.
- Among the other species which can get ramorum disease are sweet chestnut trees; bilberry, an ecologically important plant of woodland and heathland; and popular garden species such as rhododendron, viburnum and camellia. It could therefore have a significant impact on the natural environment and the forestry and garden plant industries if it were not controlled.
- Infected larch trees produce exceptionally large quantities of the spores which spread Ramorum disease, especially in the autumn, and the wind can carry these spores hundreds of metres from tall larch trees to spread infection to trees and other plants over a wide area.
- Ramorum disease is sometimes called ‘sudden oak death’, because different genotypes, or strains, of the P. ramorum organism present in North America have killed large numbers of North American native oak and tanoak trees. However, the strains of P. ramorum present in Britain have so far had little effect on Britain’s native sessile and pedunculate oak trees. The name ‘ramorum disease’ is therefore preferred here to avoid confusion with acute oak decline, a quite different condition of oak trees, and to avoid giving the impression that Britain’s native oak trees are at risk from the disease, which at present they are not.
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