Too late to save the ash but still time for others

Ash trees at Vale Park
Ash trees at Vale Park

The Bucks Tree club is calling for an end to cheap foreign plant imports, following the discovery of a new disease affecting ash trees and the spread of a moth which can cause skin irritation and asthma.

Since the discovery of a fungus called Chalara fraxinea at a Buckinghamshire plant nursery in February, the disease has been found in other parts of the country.

Experts say that if it becomes established it could blight the country’s nine million ash trees – much like the effect of Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s.

Although the ash dieback disease is airborne, the UK Forestry Commission believes there have been more outbreaks of plant diseases in the past decade than the previous 100 years because of the 
increase in imports.

Merelene Davis, acting secretary of the tree club, said: “Ash trees are going to disappear from the countryside. It’s pointless taking so called precautions now, it’s far too late.

“The public should ask government to stop importing plants or trees from abroad.

“You could have some form of quotas for some special trees, but generally we can grow them here with no problem.

“It would give British 
nurseries more business.”

Mrs Davis is also urging the government to tackle the public health threat posed by the Oak Processionary Moth, which arrived in London around five years ago. The moth’s caterpillar hairs can cause skin 
irritation and asthma.

“I think it could be eradicated, but it would be quite expensive to do it quickly,” said Mrs Davis. “But on the other hand it will be an ongoing cost mounting up. On the continent, for example, campsites in Spain are closed because of the moth – even some children’s parks are closed.

“But now it has spread further out from London, the reason it hasn’t gone further is because of the bad weather.

“I’m not aware of any reports in Bucks yet but we have heard reports it is in Berkshire.”