We’ve lost our elms, and it looks as though we’ll lose our ashes (see an earlier post). Another of our trees under threat is the London plane. This is not native, but, like sycamore, it is an important part of our landscape, especially in cities – which, after all, need all the trees they can get.
In the 1940s, the Americans brought over a nasty plane fungus in infected munitions boxes. This was Ceratocystis fimbriata f. platani, and it spread out from Italy and is currently killing the planes along France’s Canal du Midi (see this BBC article). It’s rife in Switzerland and has been found in Greece. This isn’t the only fungal threat. Phellinus punctatus and Inonotus hispidus are two further damaging fungi, both of which have been found in Southern England. And Massaria disease (from the fantastically-named Splachnonema platani) has now been spotted in London, having ravaged planes in Germany for several years. (This causes branch die-back, rather than tree death, but it’s still serious.)
Plenty of people are asking What the Government is Doing about tree diseases, but I think that we should really be asking what the EU is doing. After all, these diseases are a Europe-wide problem, and EU trading has helped their spread. I don’t know what action the EU took about C. fraxinea when it was first spotted in Poland, but it certainly didn’t lay down strict inter-EU trading and transport quarantines and guidelines. It’s time that the EU took more responsibility for environmental disasters – with a strong, united, Europe-wide co-operative, we may be able to mitigate the appalling effects of more of these man-made massacres.