Alert re-issued as ash tree disease found in Scotland

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21 AUGUST 2012NEWS RELEASE No: 15618

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Forestry Commission Scotland is urging woodland managers throughout Scotland to be vigilant for signs of a serious disease that has affected ash trees in Europe.

The appeal follows the discovery of Chalara dieback of ash (caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea) in trees planted in 2009 in a woodland managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) at Knockmountain, 2km north of Kilmacolm.

The 200 hectare (ha) site has 20 ha of mixed broadleaves including 58,000 ash plants.

The disease, which has recently been recorded at three nursery sites / locations in England, has the potential to kill millions of ash trees if it spreads into the natural environment – as it has done in Europe, including the death of an estimated 60 to 90 per cent of Denmark’s ash trees.

Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland’s tree health policy adviser, said:

“We are urging anyone, but particularly those who have planted ash trees in the last five years, to check their trees’ health and to report any suspicious symptoms to us without delay. This applies principally to professionals working in the forestry and tree sectors, but it is also relevant to anyone who looks after land with ash trees on it.”

Although there are only 5,000ha of 'pure' ash woodland in Scotland, this species is also a significant and cherished component of our 62,000ha of 'mixed broadleaved' woodland, where it is important for its timber, firewood, wildlife, biodiversity and landscape benefits.

Hugh added:

“Following laboratory confirmation of the disease at Knockmountain, all the young ash trees planted there will now need to be destroyed. 

“We are also working closely with the Scottish Government’s Horticulture and Marketing Unit a specialist unit within the Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities Directorate (AFRCD)], and Fera to trace ash planted in Scotland in the past five years. Nursery inspections will also look very closely at ash and any infected specimens will be destroyed.”

The disease mostly affects common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), including its ‘Pendula’ ornamental variety, but the Narrow-leafed ash (Fraxinus angustifolia) can also be infected. Very young trees appear to be more susceptible. 

Further information, including a ‘pest alert’ factsheet showing pictures of the symptoms of  Chalara dieback of ash, is available on the Forestry Commission’s website at .

Suspected cases should  be reported to Forest Research’s Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service (0131 445 2176  or e-mail ).

The Forestry Commission’s Forest Research agency is finalising a rapid pest risk assessment which will provide the necessary initial evidence to inform immediate action against this disease. 

1) Forestry Commission Scotland serves as part of the Scottish Government’s Environment & Forestry Directorate. Forest Enterprise Scotland is the part of the Commission which manages public forests in the Commission’s care.

2) First reported in Poland in the early 1990s, Chalara dieback of ash is now found in most parts of northern Europe, where it has caused widespread losses of ash trees., C. fraxinea is being treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures and plants from infected consignments are being destroyed under notice (powers under the Plant Health Act). 

3) Because C. fraxinea is not a “regulated” plant disease in European Union plant health law, trade in ash plants between Member States is not subject to inspection. However, if member states can show that they are free of the disease, they can press for legislation to control ash imports from areas where the disease is known to be present. The pest risk assessment which Forest Research is preparing will be the first step in preparing a case for national legislation.

4) Common ash is a deciduous species native to much of Europe, including the British Isles. Its timber is dense, strong but flexible, and was traditionally used for making tool handles and furniture, but is now more commonly used for flooring and high-end, bespoke uses. It also makes excellent firewood. 

5) Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6507