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Tackling Ash Dieback Disease: What It Means For Tree Owners

Mark Waddams, Senior Arboricultural Manager, MW Tree Consultancy

Ash Dieback Disease can devastate ash tree populations and even make ash trees a public danger. What does this mean for those with a responsibility for managing them?

Tree ownership is not just a matter of pride and aesthetics; it comes with significant responsibilities, particularly when it comes to the ongoing threat posed by Ash Dieback Disease (ADD).

For those with the responsibility for caring for and managing trees, understanding this disease, its implications, and the necessary steps to address it is paramount.

Understanding Your Responsibilities

Recent case law has emphasised the importance of proactive tree management, stating that all trees should be inspected by a "suitably qualified expert" – someone with the right qualifications, training, and skills - at least every two years, or more often following extreme weather. These inspections should alternate between spring/summer and autumn/winter, to monitor trees through their annual cycles and watch for new fungal growth.

However, due to the risk of Ash Dieback Disease, it's recommended that annual inspections are carried out at least annually for Ash trees, to monitor for the disease and take action if needed.

Ash Dieback Disease
Symptoms of Ash Dieback Disease

Ash Dieback Disease: A Brief Overview

ADD, having originated from Asia, has become widespread in the UK since its first report in 2012. The disease is caused by a fungus, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, and affects ash trees of all ages, though younger ones are particularly vulnerable.

Key Symptoms Include:

  • Dark patches on leaves during summer which wilt and darken further.

  • New shoots dying back in the summer.

  • Increased growth from dormant buds lower on the trunk, called 'epicormic growth', indicating tree stress.

Alarmingly, some projections suggest over 90% of UK Ash trees could fall victim to ADD over the next few decades. Once infected, trees, especially those of a younger or middle age, deteriorate quickly. They become brittle, posing significant risks of unexpected limb fall or total tree failure.

Addressing ADD: Challenges & Recommendations

It's important to catch ADD early as ash trees can present complex challenges and be tough to manage if left to decline for too long.

  • Climbing Challenges: The brittle nature of ash trees makes professionals wary of climbing them.

  • Machinery: If climbing is risky, tools like Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP) are preferred.

  • Early Detection: Sometimes, machinery might not be feasible due to access issues. This underscores the importance of early ADD detection to mitigate risks and manage costs.


  • If Ash trees are close to areas with heavy foot or vehicular traffic, playgrounds, or where more than 5 people pass hourly, summer inspections are essential.

  • For trees away from these risk zones, letting them decline naturally can contribute positively to the ecosystem.

Ask the Experts

ADD places a unique and pressing responsibility on tree owners. The risks are real, both to public safety and to the longevity and aesthetics of the tree.

Engaging a competent expert to ensure your trees are inspected, cared for, and managed appropriately can mitigate the stresses posed by this responsibility, which is why MW Tree Consultancy offers a dedicated and holistic ash tree monitoring and management service. We can do the hard work for you, allowing you to meet your responsibilities and ensure the health, longevity, and safety of your ash tree population.

For more information about our ash tree dieback monitoring services, get in touch!

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