tree death

mass tree death : willow

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willow, Maiden Bradley to Brimsdown Hill road, 21st July 2014 evenin

willow, Maiden Bradley to Brimsdown Hill road, 21st July 2014 evenin

This willow is looking “thin”. When you look more closely at the bunches of the leaves you can see that the leaves are strung out. They are present and coloured normally, just not enough of them, as if rationed across the tree.

They can be seen in this state and much worse while growing along river banks, so lack of water is not the issue. (People start by reaching for the passing reasons of storm damage, drought, flooded land, late spring last year, mild winter etc etc). The point is that the trees are knackered.

mass tree death: ornamentals and conifers, observation skills

I can’t identify conifers’ types well, nor ornamentals. Summer 2012 I saw many ornamentals on Bath University campus dropped their discoloured leaves completely in August.

After trees are standing dead you have to identify them by shape. They are also prone to removal because they are unsightly, and to blowing down in the winter. Therefore when you go out to spot mass tree death, it’s not a great guide to count the number of 100% lifeless and leafless trees. For example, this summer at Tytherington there was an oak (I think it was oak) that the farmer felled. It lay in the field near the road for a while, then it got dragged nearer the buildings. Next it was smouldering in situ and now there’s nothing. I don’t know if the downed tree was 100% burnt in July, or whether some chainsawing for firewood also happened.

I’ve asked people I thought would be particularly in tune with trees what, if anything, they have noticed, and am disappointed to say that they have noticed nothing. They were: two very keen lifelong older gardeners, someone with formal forestry training, 2 tree surgeons. One tree surgeon was making plans to make a killing off the firewood to come; the second said in summer 2014 that he didn’t think there was anything happening to the trees; the gardeners I think don’t look up, or look at plants they are not responsible for. The forestry trained one said they were too busy with other things to have looked.

The next hurdle is that people seem to take an awful long time to learn what they are looking at in terms of types of trees, let alone what they used to look like, and what they should look like in a given season. Therefore I suggest that novice tree death observers start by thinking about the one dead tree they probably have in their own garden, or in their favourite public space. After identifying what the dead one was, scan the town to see whether or not you can now spot other dead ones of exactly the same sort, especially by silhouette or bark if they are completely dead. It’s like spotters of anything, once you focus on something, you do begin to see it all over, and if you tune your eye to the shape of the one you have identified positively, say, dead cherry, you can expand your range of visually recognizable trees and then keep an eye on them next year.

Old photographs are also useful : if you have some same place that you have repeat photographed year on year, say at a family holiday visit, then you will be able to make a visual record of the deterioration. The photos are really just to demonstrate the different shapes after death of tree, which is what we are going to be looking at more and more!

some kind of conifer, Maiden Bradley, 21st July 2014 evening

some kind of conifer, Maiden Bradley, 21st July 2014 evening

anyone know what this silhouette is... elm? horse chestnut?  it's been dead at least one year, but after death the dating of the demise is more difficult Tytherington 14th June 2014 evening

anyone know what this silhouette is… elm? horse chestnut? it’s been dead at least one year, but after death the dating of the demise is more difficult Tytherington
14th June 2014 evening

is it ash silhouette? Maiden Bradley  21st July 2014 evening

is it ash silhouette? Maiden Bradley 21st July 2014 evening

mass tree death: horse chestnut

 

horse chestnut, Maiden Bradley to Brimsdown Hill road, 21st July 2014 evening

horse chestnut, Maiden Bradley to Brimsdown Hill road, 21st July 2014 evening

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mass tree death: oak

oak, Tytherington BA11, a good place to view the various stages of decay, 14th June 2014, evening

oak, Tytherington BA11, a good place to view the various stages of decay, 14th June 2014, evening

oak, Tytherington BA11, 14th June 2014, evening, photographed looking back towards first oak trio nearer the farm

oak, Tytherington BA11, 14th June 2014, evening, photographed looking back towards first oak trio nearer the farm

oak, 14th June 2014, evening  Can't find a completely healthy oak for comparison, but this one is not bad

oak, 14th June 2014, evening Can’t find a completely healthy oak for comparison, but this one is not bad

oak, Corsley, 27th July 2014, morning, this one is about 3 years down the road to perishing

oak, Corsley, 27th July 2014, morning, this one is about 3 years down the road to perishing

oak, pollarded, Maiden Bradley to Brimsdown Hill road, 21st July 2014, evening

oak, pollarded, Maiden Bradley to Brimsdown Hill road, 21st July 2014, evening

Tytherington, just below Marston is a good place to survey the various stages of oak death.
You can judge roughly the relative age of the trees by trunk girth. It will probably be asserted that, because many farmland oak are of a similar age, as here at T, they should naturally die off around the same time just as they were planted around the same time. This would be plausible if it were not for the simultaneous and similar death of at least 6 other kinds of tree.

Pollarding stimulates renewed growth on trees which have begun to die, but it remains to be seen if it can save them. The pollarded ash at the Standerwick market site make me wonder if Defra have suggested the pollarding.
In terms of official talk, see
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/chalara-management-plan

When I heard the bbc relay of this item mentioning Norfolk back in 2013 I had already been watching nationwide tree death for about 2 years while I drove around the country. After this first reference, which would have given you to believe it was localized to Norfolk, the National Trust mentioned their Somerset properties’ cases of tree death on bbc, so apparently other bodies were/are aware that it is widespread.

You have to go out and check the look of the trees now at the height of summer, because in a couple of weeks people will start to blame the state of the trees on early autumn, dry summer etc. Then you will have to wait nearly a year until late next spring before you can tell whether or not the various trees are well. Different trees leaf up at very different times in the spring. Some ash (at Tytherington) this year didn’t come into full leaf until nearly midsummer. I don’t know whether or not that is part of their sickness. They looked like they weren’t going to leaf up at all in May, as if they were dying ones, but by late June a few that had looked dodgy, looked well.

mass tree death 3: holly, beech, sycamore, pollarding

copper beeches, Horningsham road to Centre Parcs, Evening 21st July 2014

copper beeches, Horningsham road to Centre Parcs, Evening 21st July 2014

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copper beeches, Horningsham road to Centre Parcs, Evening 21st July 2014

copper beeches, Horningsham road to Centre Parcs, Evening 21st July 2014

copper beeches, Horningsham road to Centre Parcs, Evening 21st July 2014 too much daylight

copper beeches, Horningsham road to Centre Parcs, Evening 21st July 2014
too much daylight

I have been looking out for, but not seeing, holly and beech trees dying – until this year.

I think their die-off has for some reason kicked in about 2 years later than the ash, oak, willow, horse chestnut & cherry. I have both holly and beech in the garden and so have been able to watch mature versions closely. This year I have to acknowledge “my” beech has got something going wrong with it, the holly not yet.

Where to find clearly sick beech to check? On the road from Centre Parcs down into Horningsham, there are many mature copper beech in early stages of the sickness, and they are the ones that flagged up to me that mass tree death includes beech. They are interspersed there with healthy ones with dense foliage so you can compare. (I’m guessing that estate managers for such places are going to be more interested in saving “their” trees as assets than farmers).

Some instances of pollarding seem to have rejuvenated (temporarily?) the ash trees at the Standerwick market site. On the post for oak I also put a picture of an oak that I guess was cut back more because of the danger its dead branches posed for dropping on the road, but the remaining stump on the advanced stage sick tree has leafed up vigorously.

I don’t have local photos for holly yet but when I had to take a roadworks diversion down a country lane (maybe Pound Lane, shown) in Dorset last week,mature holly trees dying that’s when I first saw many clearly dying mature holly. Closer to home, I have now also seen some smaller holly : on the main road thro Chapmanslade, near the school.

Almost all the mass tree death trees exhibit the same : diminished leaf quantity, in an all-over-the-tree manner, not starting at the top or something like that. Horse chestnut exhibits differently with the leaves turning crispy orange brown, but on a full set of foliage.

This year what is new, after 3 years watching, is the sudden die off of a few branches which have leafed up this year, on sycamores. You can seeĀ  a bright brown patch of the dead leaves within otherwise green summer foliage. So these are areas of the tree that did leaf up this spring but have died in the past few weeks and the dead leaves are still there, not blown off. It looks the way the tree would if someone had broken those few branches and damaged the branches directly, but they are upright, not hanging down because broken, and they are often at the top in an inaccessible place, and not near the road where a truck would whack them. I’m guessing that the tree, already weakened by disease over a couple of years, then faced with extremely hot dry summer period, is unable to sustain part of this year’s growth. Like over-reaching itself given the root resources.

mass tree death 2

mass tree death