Two cases of Chalara die-back, caused by a fungus named Chalara fraxinea, have now been confirmed as affecting ash trees growing here in Co Tipperary. In recent months, the first confirmed case in Ireland was found in Co Leitrim. The young trees from this site which had tested positive for the disease, were immediately destroyed.
Latest sites, however, confirmed as having the disease include two here in County Tipperary, a site in County Galway and one site in County Meath.
Recent ash wood import restrictions introduced by the Department of Agriculture to prevent the spread of this disease have raised concerns particularly among makers of our traditional ‘camán,’ or hurley.
The disease is known to affect ash trees of any age and can be fatal, particularly to younger trees. The wide range of symptoms associated with ash die back includes:- Necrotic lesions and cankers along the bark, branches or main stem. Signs of foliage wilt or discolouration. Wilting of shoots, twigs or main stems.
Ash trees suffering from C. fraxinea have been found widely across mainland Europe, with Denmark reporting that the disease has infected about 90% of its ash tree population. Experts believe that if the disease becomes fully established, then it could have a similar impact on the landscape, as did Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.
All of the ash trees affected are understood to have been imported as saplings from continental Europe three years ago and all have now been destroyed.
What I find difficult to understand is why in God’s name, was Ireland importing ash saplings?