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Dutch Elm Disease and Ash Die Back?

These two problems with trees here in the UK have received quite a bit of publicity but has anyone heard of there being any problems with Sycamores?

In the last two years, our large previously healthy tree has started to die. Some boughs have obviously died, while other parts of it hardly have any leaves. There are portions of the tree which are in full leaf but this season, well over half of it is has been affected in the way that I've described.
There isn't any sign of damage to the bark at the base of the tree or anything like that.

There is an Ash just over our garden fence in Pilling Park which has suffered from the die back disease over the last couple of years. Last year it was completely bare of leaves, but when I pointed this out to the foreman of the arboticultural team back in March when I asked him to fell this tree while his team were clearing dead wood from the Oaks, and felling and clearing all none native trees in both Pilling Park and Lionwood, he pointed out the fresh shoots coming out from the main trunk. All of the original branches are now dead and brittle, but the trunk is throwing out shoots with an abundant covering of vibrant  new leaves. Hopefully this die back disease is not as catastrophic as first thought, and the trees immune systems can fight and over come it......... only time will tell.

The only thing I know about sycamores bodger is the amount of horse poisonings that were caused by the seeds last year. I was talking to our farrier who lost a horse because of it (as did a few others on the peninsula) and we agreed that we'd not heard of it before.
Do you think there's a link? A mutation?

Dead bit.

Healthy bit

Not very healthy bit.

The whole tree.


We had one that went just like yours in the photos.
Unlike yours ours was at the side of the road and I presumed it was the salt that gets put on the road in winter (it's quite busy and can get gritted 3 or 4 times a day if the weather is bad).
I now wonder if it was something else that was affecting it. I'll never know as I decided to have it cut down before the dead branches fell and hit a passing vehicle.  

Folks may remember us having its twin cut down a couple of years ago. It was dangerously close to the house.

I've had time to look into this and it maybe that this is whats affecting the tree. I think I'm correct in saying that the sycamore is one on the plane tree varieties.

Have you seen any fungus on it?

We have 2 sycamores that we had pollarded last year, they look ok.
We also have lots of ash trees around and about and, thankfully, they are all healthy too.

I can't see any fungus on it but I'm not really sure what we're looking for. We're going to try and have it felled but have to go through planning, who have given themselves a system where by they have goodness knows how may weeks to even reply to our query.

bodger wrote:
I've had time to look into this and it maybe that this is whats affecting the tree. I think I'm correct in saying that the sycamore is one on the plane tree varieties.

Now that is interesting because the City Council have recently been felling a lot of Plane trees, and especially London Plane trees in and around Norwich.

The bit I don't understand though, is that nearly all the plane trees that have been felled, have been replaced with Himalayan birches, and yet the city council has another team out and about which are felling and removing mature none-native species. which are then being replaced with 2.5 to 3 metre tall London Plane trees and Poplars

I've just been reading a piece of research from the Universite de Liege about the huge huge surge in horse poisonings last year. They reckon that the high production of the toxin hypoglycin (the culprit) is an indicator of a tree under stress.

So there must have been a huge number of sycamores under stress last year.

It would be interesting to see how many trees are showing the same signs as yours bodger.

I don't recall the weather being anything too much out of the ordinary last year. It definitely started last year. The dead bows were very much lacking foliage like the ones at the top of the tree are this season.

I've just got this back from an enquiry with the forestry Commission.


Hi John,

Further to our telephone call, I have attached our information sheet on honey fungus and our sampling guide for Phytophthora to give you an idea what you are looking for.

You need to peel back the bark with a chisel or knife where the lesions meet healthy tissue. If you find a white fungal sheet growing beneath the bark that will confirm honey fungus.  On page 5 of the honey fungus guide the mycelium, or fungal tissue, is clearly evident beneath the bark of an affected tree.  Should you confirm it, the best course of action is to remove the tree.  If you wish to replace it, the list of less susceptible plants in the leaflet may be helpful.  However, if there is no evidence of white mycelium and the plant tissue is just dead, Phytophthora might be the cause.  This is a microscopic organism which will not be visible with the naked eye.  

Unfortunately in the case of both these root pathogens, the prognosis for the tree is poor.  Ideally you would remove the tree and if practicable, the large roots.  However, this is often extremely difficult.  Ultimately the key is to replant with species which are less susceptible, and if we can identify the organism involved, then it is possible to tailor replant choices.

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