Check sweet chestnuts for blight, Commission urges

The Forestry Commission is appealing to the owners and managers of sweet chestnut trees to be vigilant for sweet chestnut blight following the discovery of a tree with the disease.

Image: Crown copyright/Forestry Commission
Image: Crown copyright/Forestry Commission

A single sweet chestnut tree (Castanea sativa) infected by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica was confirmed on a private property near Maidstone, Kent after the owner spotted and reported suspicious symptoms to the Commission with its Tree Alert on-line reporting tool.

The tree has been destroyed and a survey of sweet chestnut and oak trees within 5km carried out, with no further cases detected. Other sweet chestnut plants supplied by the same nursery were also found not to be affected. The disease had been recorded only twice before in the UK, in 2011.

Forestry Commission England tree health manager Andy Hall said: "We cannot afford to be complacent and presume that's the end of the matter.

"Our surveyors cannot be everywhere all the time, so we are also appealing to owners and managers of sweet chestnut trees to remain vigilant. Please follow the example of this owner and inspect your trees frequently for signs of ill health, and report any suspicious symptoms to us, preferably with Tree Alert."

Jane Barbrook, plant health wider environment lead at the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA), added: "If people are bringing trees, plants and seeds of sweet chestnut, oak, pine, elm, plane, ash and Prunus into England and Wales, they must notify APHA."

Imports of these species into Scotland must be notified to the Horticulture & Marketing Unit of the Scottish Government's Rural Payments & Inspections Directorate.

Of Asian origin, C. parasitica killed most of North America's sweet chestnut trees (Castanea dentata) in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was first recorded in Europe in the 1930s, and is now widespread across the European mainland.

The Forestry Commission has published guidance on identifying the pathogen

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