Blog

Introducing Dr Mary Barkham: Observatree volunteer and new Chair of the project Board

I was delighted to go to an Observatree training event at Llandeilo on 8 June 2018. This was the third training event that I have attended and, as well as an update on some priority pests and diseases, there was a very useful identification workshop on broadleaved trees. Some were more challenging than others, including some species that I was less familiar with like Wych Elm. I’ve now seen several of these where I live in South Wales. It just shows how much more observant you can become when you know what you are looking for. And I now know where to look for any Elm zigzag sawflies! Training events are always a good opportunity to learn from other volunteers too. I’m always impressed by the knowledge and experience of participants and it’s really useful to know who is surveying where in your region. It was also nice for new […]

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‘On the trail of Sirococcus tsugae’, Andy Gordon, Observatree volunteer

In July 2015, at an Observatree training session held at Keele University, Barnaby Wylder (Forestry Commission) showed volunteers a 10-15 year old  Cedrus atlantica glauca quite heavily infected with Sirococcus tsugae. The disease has been endemic in North America on Hemlock (Tsuga spp.) for many years but has only been observed in Europe, initially in Germany, in recent years. The day after Barnaby’s talk I visited Attingham Park, very close to my home, and found tip die-back symptoms on 15-30 year old trees of Cedrus libani.  Samples sent to Forest Research proved negative but within a month samples from three different Cedrus atlantica glauca at the National Sports Centre, Lillieshall Hall, all proved positive. Further samples collected from Shropshire and Mid Wales over the next two years also proved positive. This made me confident that I was able to detect the disease and no longer sent samples to Forest Research […]

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‘2018 volunteer training days – a summary’, Charlotte Armitage, Woodland Trust

I would like to say a huge thank you to all volunteers and trainers who attended the training days and helped make them successful and enjoyable for everyone present. We held 11 events across England, Wales, and Scotland from the end of May to the beginning of July. Approximately 75 volunteers attended and it was good to see a mix of existing and new volunteers. According to preliminary feedback, the majority were satisfied or very satisfied with their training experience. Trainers came to support from across the partnership: Forest Research (FR) Forestry Commission England (FCE) and Scotland (FCS) Natural Resources Wales (NRW) The Woodland Trust (WT) The National Trust (NT) The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) FERA Science This cross organisation working has been very positive as volunteers have benefitted from the range of different experiences and expertise that trainers were able to provide on training days. We covered a […]

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‘A world without males: How the elm zigzag sawfly is benefiting from their absence’, Dr Max Blake, Forest Research

After zigzagging its way across most of Europe for 15 years, elm zigzag sawfly (Aproceros leucopoda) has now been confirmed (read the official press release) in Britain following a discovery of the distinctive feeding traces in Surrey in 2017. Soon after the press release documenting the finding, and the significant media interest that followed, records of the sawfly were received via Tree Alert and the first record of the lava in Britain made on 24 June 2018. The speed of elm zigzag’s spread is partially due to its frenetic lifestyle. In good weather, they can complete their life cycle in under a month, completing multiple generations before sheltering in a special, solid walled cocoon over winter. As well as growing at speed, the adult sawflies have another strategy for rapid colonisation – they don’t need to mate to lay fertile eggs. Normally, sexually mature female animals need to mate with sexually mature […]

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Oriental chestnut gall wasp – an update by Chris Malumphy, Fera Science Ltd

Oriental chestnut gall wasp (OCGW) (Dryocosmus kuriphilus) is the most important insect pest globally of sweet chestnut (Castanea spp.). It is native to China and has been accidently introduced to other parts of Asia, North America and Europe. It is a regulated pest in the European Union. What has happened with OCGW in the UK since it was first found in 2015? The number of locations where OCGW has been found has risen dramatically from two in 2015 to more than 80 in 2018, all in SE England (see the Forestry Commission confirmed distribution map). I have been visiting woods in Kent, where OCGW was first discovered in the UK, annually to monitor the pest and collect samples. There has been a huge increase in the density of galls on individual trees. Why the concern in the UK? Sweet chestnut is a valuable timber species and is locally important in […]

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‘Can you help us to understand the distribution of Gypsy Moth in Britain?’, Dr Max Blake, Forest Research

In the early 1900’s, the large, rather conspicuous gypsy moth was lost from the British list of breeding insects. A specialist feeding on bog-myrtle and creeping willow, it became extinct when the fens of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk were drained. However, 90 years later the gypsy moth was back when the European race was found breeding in a small area of northeast London. Though now widespread throughout much of London, the moth is found patchily throughout a wide area southeast from an imaginary line through Bournemouth, Reading and Luton, and finally to Southend-on-Sea. Despite being large and colourful, gypsy moth larvae can be surprisingly hard to find, and as such we are almost certainly under recording this species and so we are now looking for your help to better understand its distribution. The European race is somewhat different to the original British form, being slightly smaller, but considerably more voracious, feeding […]

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‘Palmageddon’ heading our way – Chris Malumphy, Fera Science Ltd

Anybody visiting tourist resorts in the Mediterranean today will likely encounter large numbers of dying and dead palms. What is the reason for this ‘palmageddon’ in the Mediterranean? The culprit is a large Asian beetle called the red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) – the most important pest in the World of date palm, coconut and certain ornamental species. Their larvae develop inside the main trunk, hollowing it out and eventually killing the plant. It is difficult to detect the larvae protected inside the trunk and by the time the palm is showing symptoms, it is usually too late to save the plant. Dying date palm Red palm weevil on adult hand I first encountered the beetle while on a family holiday in Greece, where my children delighted in capturing attractive beetles that were active in the warm evenings. The adults are large, about 35 mm long and 10 mm wide, […]

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‘Volunteers to help survey historic trees’, Christopher Weddell, English Heritage

English Heritage are delighted to collaborate with Observatree, to allow Tree Health Surveyors access to English Heritage sites in support of the early warning system for tree health issues in England. We are acutely aware of the risk of significant tree pests and diseases affecting the UK and Europe therefore this collaboration can boost the work of our Regional Landscape Mangers, Garden Teams and contracted tree inspectors as we recognise that an outbreak at or close to an English Heritage site could have a significant impact for the conservation of the site and the enjoyment and engagement of visitors. English Heritage cares for the National Heritage Collection of more than 400 state-owned historic sites and monuments, spanning six millennia – from world-famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of the empire to a Cold War bunker. Through these, we bring the story of England […]

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‘Along the wayside’, Katie Blain, Forestry Commission England

Pine processionary moth (PPM) caterpillars present a similar concern as their Oak counterparts. They can weaken trees by defoliation and pose a hazard to public health. Pine can suffer from a range of pathogens that exist in the UK; PPM is not currently known to be present, but it has been extending its range across Europe towards the English Channel. As Jane Barbrook from APHA said in a previous blog; negative data is good! If you are out and about surveying, or just enjoying a walk, look around and report any stands of pine trees which are free of PPM to Observatree . The Forestry Commission can use these reports to declare our pest free status and, by keeping an eye out, PPM may be spotted at low populations so that our colleagues at Forest Research can be made aware of it via Tree Alert. Being passionate about trees and […]

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‘Out with the old and in with the new: Welcome to Observatree (phase two)’, Peter Crow, Observatree Project Manager

What a busy year 2017 was for the Observatree team! Last year we produced more educational resources, ran successful media campaigns, trained stakeholders and volunteers across the county, attended events, held a volunteer celebration event and hosted a conference. Phew!! Our volunteers continued to produce high quality tree health reports and win awards along the way (congratulations David). To date, volunteers have submitted over 3000 reports and they continue to play active roles in supporting tree health scientists and inspectors in many ways. As I write this blog (Jan 2018), I am also finishing a report for our LIFE funder on everything  the project has achieved over the last four years. Examples of resources we’ve produced and evidence of activities all need to be included. Whilst I’m not surprised by the large quantity of supporting material being submitted with the report, it is nonetheless an impressive testament to a lot […]

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