The inevitable has happened. The fungal disease, Chalara Fraxinea, commonly known as Ash Dieback has now reached Northern Ireland. Diseased saplings have apparently been identified at five sites across Counties Down and Antrim. All of the affected plants are to be destroyed.
The relevant young trees are reported as having been imported, so these first outbreaks have probably appeared earlier than would have been the case if we had been waiting for the disease to spread by wind borne spores. However, with the disease having been reported in Co. Monaghan some weeks ago, we were definitely on borrowed time. Almost the entirety of Europe has now been affected with these killer spores. Clearly they are supporters of the European Community's freedom of movement provisions.
A small percentage of our ash trees are likely to have an inbuilt immunity to, "Dieback" but there will be many thousands of tree deaths and a large number of them will not be of free standing specimens but rather hedgerow trees. A high percentage of the latter will have been pollarded and may not be so obvious to us.
The next few years are likely to bring about a diseased look to our countryside. Hedgerows will have their gaps. The dendritic winter profile of the mature trees will disappear from our gaze. This arboreal caries will rack destruction.
Today's news is a sad preface of what awaits.