A new tree disease threatens our landscape - Bridgwater & Taunton College

During the 1970s the green rolling hills of our elm-laced countryside changed forever; the tight, ruthless grip of Dutch Elm Disease (DED) resulted in the loss of over 60 million of our native trees.

The British landscape would undergo such a dramatic change that it would never be the same. The disease spread so effectively that today only isolated pockets of mature elm trees remain.

We all know about DED. It has become ingrained in our island history.

So what? Why worry? DED has had its day. The moment is over, surely we’ll never experience tree loss and landscape change on a similar scale again, will we?

We all know that trees are frequently affected by pathogens which are common place, it’s part of the ecological cycle, the circle of life, it’s how nature ticks!

Initially these blogs will consider new tree pests, diseases and disorders lurking deep in our woods and gardens which could potentially cause further dramatic changes to our treescape in the coming years.

For instance, over the past 20 years Ash Dieback has been steadily creeping in our direction across mainland Europe. First identified in the UK in 2012 it could eventually wipe out well over 100 million ash trees in the UK.


Dark patches on foliage and early leaf loss followed by development of cankers on branches. Young trees die very quickly, whilst older trees may decline over a number of years. Often they will become susceptible to commonly known problems such as Honey Fungus. In advanced stages, you may even notice die back in the crown. There is currently no cure for this disease so it’s likely that you’ll need to employ a professional arborist to have the tree removed safely. The Forestry Commission is currently undertaking screen trials to identify disease tolerant trees.

Reducing further infection

Although not always feasible, burning or burying leaf debris and removing infection (trees including saplings) can slow down the spread of the disease.


If you have these symptoms it is certainly worth hiring a professional arborist to ensure correct diagnosis as sometimes these symptoms can be confused with other diseases. Don’t panic if your ash tree leafs up late! Ash are often last to produce leaves but if you haven’t seen budburst by mid-June then it likely something is wrong. And it could be Ash Dieback so get it checked.

You can report suspect trees at www.forestry.gov.uk/treealert.

If you found this article interesting and would like to learn more about trees and arboriculture then contact us! We offer a range of courses which include tree climbing, tree felling, chainsaw operation, tree surveying and apprenticeship programmes in Arboriculture. For more information, call our Information and Guidance team on 01278 441234.

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