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Staying healthy: common tree diseases and how to avoid them

Staying healthy is something we all try to do. We look after ourselves with the food we eat, the exercise we do, even what time we go to bed. In fact, this duty of care extends to those around us and the things we own; our children, spouses, pets and belongings are all looked after. So why should it be any different when it comes to our trees? A number of tree projects in the Brentwood area are taking care of our trees, and today’s article is the first in a series about some of the diseases to look out for when keeping your tree healthy.

Tree diseases to watch out for

There are few things more heartbreaking than discovering your tree is ravaged by disease and will have to be felled. In Essex alone, the amount of trees that have been removed entirely due to lack of understanding about diseases is truly shocking. Here are some of the most common diseases, and some tips for looking out for them:

Canker Disease

Canker disease attacks the tree in such a way that cankers – blister-like areas on the bark and branch – form. These cankers spread the disease into the tree, and it’s important to control them early. To fight against and protect from canker disease, pruning, mulching, feeding and watering must be completed regularly, and, if your tree already has the disease, the affected areas must be removed as soon as possible.

Powdery Mildew Disease

Common on many trees, particularly oaks and maples. This disease is brought on usually by root dryness and poor air circulation, whereby powdered mildew forms on the leaves. Preventing the disease is quite easy, though, as recent work in the Brentwood area has shown: it simply involves pruning back the dead areas of the tree. Heavy watering followed by mulching the plant may also help.

Heart Rot Disease

Affecting deciduous trees, Heart Rot is a disease where fungus grows on damaged areas or wounds. Although similar to canker, Heart Rot is caused by many different types of fungus, and can grow on trees pruned poorly, damaged by fire or with broken branches. Look out for mushrooms growing on your trees (called fruiting bodies or brackets) – if you find them, it’s essential to call an arborist.

Honey Fungus

One of the nastier diseases that can put a stranglehold on your plant. When honey fungus strikes, it usually means the end for your tree: both tree and stump must be removed. Usually affecting trees in poor health, the fungus travels through the ground into the plant, producing boot laces as a sign of indent. Check to see if your tree has this disease by peeling away a piece of bark on the root: if there’s a creamy white mushroom-smelling layer, it’s bad news. Yew, oaks and beeches are among those that are less susceptible to the disease.

Fraxinus Chalara

Perhaps the most important one to keep an eye out for us Fraxinus Chalara. The reason we say this is due to the disease hitting areas in Kent last year and, due to its airbourne nature, is likely to find its way to Essex sooner rather than later. This disease affects Ash trees, meaning that, if you’re an owner of Ash, you need to be on your toes. If the leaves on your Ash have dark patches that spread to the twigs and branches, and cankers are developing, it’s time to take action. As these can each be symptoms of other, less serious diseases, it’s imperative that you call an arborist to diagnose the problem in order to stop the spread of this disease.

Although not a definitive list of all the types of tree disease and tree disease treatments, it’s important to look out for the signs of disease listed in this post before it’s too late. We’ve covered many of the diseases you’ll be likely to find in Essex and, more locally, Brentwood. If you’re unsure about anything or believe that an expert’s opinion would be beneficial – it usually is – then don’t hesitate to call your local tree surgery specialist for advice.