Ash Dieback - the Threat to Manx Woodlands

Monday 12th November 2012

Information about the disease, identification of ash trees, symptoms of Dieback, plus details of the government's recently introduced emergency order banning the import of ash plants, seed or products into the Island.

There has been huge concern in recent weeks about the appearance of Ash Dieback, Cholera fraxinus, a fungal disease that has been responsible for the death of many thousands of Ash trees throughout western Europe.

At the time of writing this article there have been no confirmed reports of the disease in the Isle of Man, but there is an urgent need for all ash trees, particularly those in young plantations, to be checked for evidence of the disease.

Ash dieback is a major threat to British woodland. Ash accounts for 5% of the total woodland cover and nearly 30% of broadleaved woods in Britain.

Here on the Isle of Man it is a tree that is often found in our hedgerows and small woodlands. In other parts of western Europe where the disease has been present for several years, it has killed as much as 90% of those trees it infects. It infects all species of ash, but its lethality varies from one species to another. 

There are many Rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia) on the Isle of Man, although often called Mountain Ash, these are not in the same family as Ash (Fraxinus spp) and are not affected by the disease. 

More than 100 reports of the disease in the UK and Ireland
Although experts and government departments in the UK have been aware of the disease for many years, it was thought to be absent from the UK population. Sadly, after an initial infection report from Norfolk, over the past few weeks there have been over 100 reports of the disease from the UK, and southern Ireland.

It is now apparent that the disease has become widespread within the UK Ash population and there is very little chance of it being brought under control and stopped. 

The disease is spread naturally by the wind dispersing fungal spores from one area to another, up to 30-40 km at a time in some instances. In theory this means that the Isle of Man should be able to remain secure from the disease. However, it seems clear that the wide distribution of infected sites in the UK is probably as a result of human spread of trees and plant material rather than just wind-blown distribution.

The situation with this disease is changing rapidly – new reports of infected sites in the UK and Ireland are logged almost daily.

Protecting our Manx trees - Emergency Banning Order
On 5th November 2012, the Isle of Man government implemented an emergency banning order - The Plant Health (Ash Dieback Prevention) Order 2012 – which prohibits the importation of ash plants, seed or products into the Island.

If you have ash trees on your land, please check then urgently
We would urge anyone with land here on the Isle of Man who has ash trees on it, particularly young recently planted or imported plants, to check them thoroughly.

If you are in any way concerned with the condition of your trees then contact the Forestry Department of DEFA.

You will find advice on how to identify ash trees, the disease itself and the new regulations at the links below. 

Do you have time to volunteer to help us check trees?
There are a huge number of sites and trees to be checked around our Island and we are working in collaboration with DEFA to help check as many as possible over the coming months.

If you are able to give some time as a volunteer to help in these efforts please contact us: by email: or by phone: (01624) 844432.

Identification of an Ash tree 

In the winter Ash trees are relatively easy to identify by the colour and pattern of buds on the twigs. 

The buds are a distinct black colour, in pairs along the twig, with a single large terminal black bud flanked by two smaller black buds. The buds often show a small, semi-circular leaf scar below them. The twigs, especially on older trees are quite brittle, and you may still find clumps of the seeds, ash keys, still attached to some branches. Sycamore twigs are a similar pattern, but the buds are green.

The Woodland Trust: Twig identification guide [PDF]

Identification of Ash Dieback Symptoms:
Forestry Commission UK: Web page about the disease
Forestry Commission UK: Web page describing symptoms
Forestry Commission UK: Pictoral guide [PDF]

IOM government information:
Dept of Forestry, Environment and Agriculture (DEFA): The Plant Health (Ash Dieback Prevention) Order 2012 press announcement
If you are concerned about the condition of your ash tress please contact at DEFA immediately.

Tagged with: Reserves, Trees, Woodlands