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Deadly Virus spreading to all our Trees

Filed under: Networks News  Green Space & Conservation 

A DEADLY disease which has been wiping out Britain's Oaks is now feared to be spreading to other species of Trees.

Thousands of acres of Woodland have been felled in an attempt to halt the airborne plague, Phytophthora Ramorum, or Sudden Oak Death.

The virulent disease had been confined to shrubs such as rhododendron in Britain. But it has now been killing large numbers of Japanese larch in the south west and appears to be spreading to new species, said Dr Joan Webber, principal pathologist and head of tree health at the Forestry and Climate Change Centre.

'It is starting to take its toll in many different environments,' she told leading gardeners, conservationists and countryside managers at Bicton Arena, near Budleigh Salterton, Devon. 'In summer
2009, we started to get extensive reports of death in larch trees across the west country and an aerial survey of sites was a little bit horrifying - it is quite a pathogen and has considerable powers to resist.'

Dr Webber attributes the spread to a surge in free trade and the movement of plants around the world.
'We were confused because rhododendron shrubs were supposed to pass it on but we found trees nowhere near the shrubs becoming infected, and other trees close by them,' she said.

Britain contains 133,950ha (331,000 acres) of larch woodland and the disease has so far claimed about 2million trees, according to research.

By Hayden Smith

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