We have received the following urgent email from our friends at A Rocha and would ask churches to check any Ash trees in their grounds and report any sightings as soon as possisble:
The media as you may be aware have reported a new and very serious threat to the UK countryside-in the form of a fungus Chalara fraxinea. This fungus has the capacity to decimate our native Ash tree population-in much the same way as Dutch Elm disease wiped out the Elm population last century.
This species of tree has a significant place in many of our church yards and church grounds-and we have been asked to please monitor our Ash trees this winter and during the spring and early summer months next year. The pdf document in the link below (courtesy of The Forestry Commission) indicates what you are looking for. Lesions appear on the bark surface-and can grow considerably in size. the bark underneath is often discoloured and grey or brownish. It can kill the tree, or lead to substantial die back of the crown. I have looked at pictures of the leaves which wilt from the tips-but as many other conditions also do this-the main ID feature is the bark.
At the request of lead agencies, can you:
1) Look out for signs or symptoms of this disease in your church yard/church grounds
2) Send any photos or descriptions, plus your location and contact details to: firstname.lastname@example.org -with “TREE” in the subject line. We will send any suspect photos/descriptions to DEFRA/Forestry Commission and send you an acknowledgement.
At this stage the disease appears confined to two locations in East Anglia. But as with many fast moving pathogens-early containment and identification is essential. So wherever you are-we are asking for your immediate help. Dr Joan Webber, Principle Pathologist for the Forestry Commission has said; “we really appreciate A Rocha’s and the wider churches input into trying to control and eradicate a potentially devastating fungus”…..so on her endorsement it is over to you.
UK Conservation Director MIEEM CertMANA Rocha UK