Choosing the right trees

    Choosing the right tree


    Are people still planting trees?
    Trees cover approximately 3.1 million hectares across the UK, which is 13% of all land, of this 60% is in private ownership.  This compares to approximately 15% tree cover recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086.  From a low of 5% cover following the second world war, woodland in the UK is recovering.  Whilst not everyone has aspirations of commercial forestry; whether for screening, creating a landscaping or for environmental benefits, planting trees is popular.  Forestry commission figures show that thirteen thousand hectares of new woodland was planted in 2012.

    Ash Dieback
    The discovery in 2012 of Ash Dieback (Chalara Fraxinea) has caused some nervousness about planting new trees and certainly, Ash has not featured in many planting plans since the discovery of the disease.  As at February 2013, there were 386 known cases of Ash Dieback in the UK, most commonly found in the east of the country.  Chalara Fraxinea is a fungal infection that causes the crowns of ash trees (and some other broadleaf species) to die back.  The disease has potential to devastate Ash species in a similar way that Dutch Elm disease spread in the mid 20th century.  Some Elm species are emerging that are genetically resistant to the disease and there is hope that over time Elm populations will recover.  It is hoped that some resistant Ash species will be discovered.

    Is Ash Dieback the only problem?
    Chalara Fraxinea is perhaps the best reported disease in recent years.  This publication of information about it should help to contain the damage through better education.  It is not though, the only tree damaging disease.  There are 10-12 epidemic level diseases affecting trees, one of which is Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora Ramorum).  This affects not only Oak trees but Rhododendron, Larch and Viburnam, which have probably been the major casualties.  There has been a plethora of tree affecting diseases throughout time and it is unlikely that Ash Dieback will be the last.  Damage from squirrels, deer and other animals as well as weather damage is still the largest cause of tree casualties.

    Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    To plan woodland planting around disease vulnerability is difficult, especially when the life-span of the trees might be 100 years or more.  It is virtually impossible to say what infection there may be in the future.  There are though, few diseases which will infect and kill numerous species and this is the basis on which planting choices should be made.  Clearly, it would be foolish to plant great tracts of Ash when there is a prevalent disease spreading which attacks it.  Planting a wide variety of species from proven nurseries and taking advice on planting techniques and positioning can help improve the chances of survival.  Should there be a major spread of disease in the future, exposure to it can be limited by adding variety to plantations.

    Getting it right
    Planting woodland can be a costly exercise.  Even with grant support from schemes such as the England Woodland Grant Scheme, there is an obligation on the claimant to ensure that the trees actually grow and choosing the right species for the land type and sourcing good quality stock can help minimise loss.  The cheapest plants can often be a false economy.  Whilst scientific research into disease protection will improve,  new pests and diseases are being discovered and some thoughtful woodland planning and advice on the best stock for the ground conditions can help improve the success of any new woodland.  Above all, a good pest control plan including the control of deer and rodents is one of the most important ways to protect trees and the investment in them.


    Key contacts

    Philip Eddell

    Philip Eddell

    Country & London House Consultancy

    Savills Newbury

    +44 (0) 1635 277 709

    +44 (0) 1635 277 709