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Are Britain’s Christmas Trees Under Attack?
You may have heard recently about British ash trees having been under attack from a fungal disease that causes black spots, cankers on bark and dying branches (ash die back), but did you know that the traditional Christmas tree is also under threat of an aggressive tree condition? ‘Current season needle necrosis’ is killing many of the popular Nordmann fir trees and making many more un-saleable.
Here’s why it’s a big problem for the humble Christmas tree:
Current Season Needle Necrosis
Current season needle necrosis is an aggressively spreading tree disease which is hitting up to 50 per cent of Christmas tree farms’ crops in the UK. The condition is killing the Nordmann fir in the run up to the festive season. It turns its needles yellow, and then later brown, before they eventually drop off completely.
The Nordmann fir is one of the most popular Christmas trees in Europe, and whilst you do not need to worry about there being a lack of supply of other types of tree this Christmas, the growers working behind the scenes are unfortunately losing huge sums of money due to this problem.
What is Causing the Attack?
No one truly understands what is causing this attack of current season needle necrosis. We know that it is a fungus of some sort, possibly the fungus known as Sydowia polyspora, but we cannot be sure of the causes.
Britain’s record warm and wet summers have been suggested as a cause, as has the use of herbicides, which may be stripping off the protective wax on the fir needles. As recently as 2010, the condition was rarely seen, but now it is damaging hundreds of thousands of trees; researchers from the British Christmas Tree Growers Association are therefore looking into its causes and how to prevent it.
What Should you Look for When Buying your Christmas Tree?
Although it should be quite obvious if a tree is suffering from current season needle necrosis due to its destructive nature, it’s always worth checking the freshness of your tree before buying.
Look out for any browning needles, and run your hand down the length of some of the lower branches – do any of the needles come away in your hand? If so, the tree may not be as fresh as it should be. Always look for a tree where the branches are flexible and the needles appear to be retained.