Fungal disease hits horse chestnuts

Forestry Commission sees fungal disease hit horse chestnut trees

The Forestry Commission has recorded a remarkable number of disease-hit horse chestnut trees and an expert says wet weather last spring may be the cause. Phytophthora cactorum, or bleeding canker, affects mature Aesculus hippocastanum specimens. Symptoms include sap running from patches of bark on the stems and limbs. The leaves turn yellow and the bark starts to split and fall away. The Forestry Commission’s Dr David Rose explained: “The disease has become more prevalent in the past four or five years. It’s remarkable the number of cases we’ve had this year. The very wet spring and wet May are probable causes.” Lancaster City Council operations manager for grounds maintenance Paul Cocker sent samples of diseased trees to the Forestry Commission’s disease and diagnosis unit. He said 15 had died and others showed symptoms. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “Within eight months of symptoms appearing, the trees are dying. These are really huge trees. We planted some standard-sized trees just eight years ago and they are showing signs of disease too.”

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