Sunday, 24 February 2013


A story which might have been missed last year concerns the humble larch.  The hardy, lofty, deciduous conifer tree which can be found throughout the UK, including the woodlands of Dartmoor.  A cash crop especially valued for its extremely hard wood.  You may recall the sudden and substantial clearances of trees within Burrator, or at Canonteign Woods, or at Cann Woods in the Plym Valley back in 2011.  Restocking of these forests is complete, but the cause was Ramorum Disease (Phytophtora Ramorum) - a fungus like infection that kills trees and shrubs, and the spread of the infection continues...

Dead oak tree painted by artist Henry Brudenell-Bruce (creator
of the Widecombe 'Giant Chair') in grounds of Delamere House
near Cornwood, to highlight the threat posed by Ramorum disease.
The infection was first discovered in the UK in 2002, and boosted by wet Summers and strong winds has since leapt species from Viburnum and Rhododendron to Bilberry and Japanese Larch.  It is estimated that the plantation surrounding Burrator Reservoir is 10% Japanese Larch.  

The disease is spread by spores that develop on infected plants, and the only known means of control is systematic felling of the trees, before they can produce spores.  The movement of the disease around the country has been ceaseless.  Initially limited to Devon, Cornwall and Wales, cases in Japanese larch trees were reported in the South East of England for the first time last September, and Scotland reported it's first cases earlier this month.

The Forestry Commission have stated that it is likely more Ramorum disease will be reported in Dartmoor woodlands - in fact there have been 4 new cases reported in 2013 so far - and it is likely more woodland will succumb to the infection, potentially infecting beech, birch and sweet chestnut trees.

Timber from infected trees can be used, but can only be processed and transported under tight restrictions.  There is no risk to human or animal health from the infection, but the Forestry Commission have the following advise to help minimise the rish of spreading the infection:

- Keep to marked paths, forest roads and hard footpaths
- Remove mud and soil from footwear after leaving woodland
- Keep dogs on short leads
- Not removing cuttings or other plant material from woodland
- Keep away from felling operations, and obey all safety notices

Common sense perhaps, but if letterboxers can do their bit to protect the forests of Dartmoor, it must surely be a good thing.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Sad to hear that there have already been cases of the disease this year, but brightly coloured trees might just catch on!