Fears over future of oak tree

PUBLISHED: 18:00 04 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:14 02 July 2010

Oak Tree

Oak Tree

East Anglia's ancient oaks are under threat from a disease experts fear will devastate the countryside.

East Anglia's ancient oaks are under threat from a disease experts fear will devastate the countryside.

Robert Kett plotted revolution around the trunk of an oak alongside Wymondham to Hethersett road in 1549, while Charles II famously hid from Cromwell's soldiers in the boughs of an oak in Worcestershire a century later.

Nelson's flagship and thousands of sailing vessels were built from timber which became synonymous with the strength and courage of sailors with hearts of oak.

Yet great trees which have stood since before Horatio's death at Trafalgar in 1805 appear defenceless against an unknown bacteria, which causes them to bleed black fluid. Infected specimens become covered in oozing lesions and die within three to five years.

More than 50 outbreaks of Acute Oak Decline (AOD) have now been confirmed across East Anglia, the Midlands and Southern England.

They include sites near Woodbridge, Suffolk and one in Cambridgeshire, though the disease is spreading across the country. The Forestry Commission estimates thousands of trees have already become affected by the disease, which attacks specimens more than 50 years old.

Sally Smith, Norfolk spokesman for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “We're very concerned about this because it could have an even greater effect on the look of the English countryside than what happened with the elms.”

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