24 August 2006
Save the Conker
Britain's horse chestnut trees, providers of conkers for generations of children are dying in their thousands according to today’s Independent. THe trees are being hit by drought, pest attack and disease. On many, the leaves have already withered and shrunk, and conkers, the fruits of the tree, are not being produced at all.
Trees are being severely hit in many parts of Britain and according to the Forestry Commission about 10% of all horse chestnuts may already be affected - about 10 per cent of all the horse chestnuts in Britain. As branches tend to drop off the weakened trees, thousands of them on the fringes of urban streets may have to be cut down for safety reasons"I think you could compare this to Dutch elm disease," said Tony Kirkham, the head of the arboretum at the Royal Botanic Gardens. "The last thing we would want is another epidemic that wiped out a common British tree species."
The trees have already been stressed by three winters of drought. But now in their weakened state they are suffering from simultaneous attack by a pest, the leaf miner moth, whose larvae eats the leaves, and a disease known as bleeding canker. This causes a dark liquid to ooze from spots on the trunk of a tree, which can quickly develop into large damaged patches, spreading all the way around the branch or trunk until limbs fall off, or the tree falls over.
Chris Howkins, botanist and author said "At the weekend, here in Runnymede we couldn't find a horse chestnut that wasn't infected, and there are thousands of them. People don't realise the scale of it yet. They see these trees turning brown and they just think autumn is coming early. A lot of people won't have realised that this is actually death."