Have you got an oak tree in your garden? Or even just oak trees in your local area that you’re particularly fond of? Unfortunately they may not be around much longer if the mystery disease that’s currently affecting them across the UK isn’t dealt with before it tightens its deadly grip on all the oak trees around the country. Thankfully the British government is trying to do something about it, but is it already too late?
The British government is spending £1.1 million on an emergency project to save the spectacular English oak tree. The mysterious disease causes the trees to ‘bleed to death’, killing oaks within four years once it takes hold. It causes ‘dark weeping patches’, mostly on the stems of oak trees that are more than 50 years old, which is what gives the disease the appearance of causing ‘bleeding’.
So, the task that the government has is to try and stop the spread before it wipes out our heritage. They’re doing this by felling thousands of trees, stripping the bark and burning them in an effort to stop the spread. It’s unfortunate that so many trees have to be destroyed, but it’s the price we have to pay to make sure that the tree doesn’t go extinct.
Dr Jaems McDonald, from Bangor University, is doing DNA research to try and identify the bacteria, although one theory is that the oak jewel beetle is causing it.
“It is a very complicated issue. It could involve new bacteria that have been isolated from the lesions on the stems or the oak jewel beetle. We are looking at their involvement but both could be passive bystanders in the process. We don’t know.”
A big effort is being made to understand how the disease spreads, with the government conducting a large scale study of trees across Britain and taking samples from 200 woodlands. The latter is being carried out by the Forestry Commission and bioscience experts at Bangor and Cambridge Universities.
The head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service told the Daily Mail that “we are determined to do everything possible to protect our trees”. Let’s hope that it works, or the UK will suffer the loss of a magnificent tree that has become a staple of the British countryside.