Johanna Gibbons calls for ‘Springwatch’ approach to spotting problems

We must pay more attention to threat to oak trees

Landscape professionals need to take a ‘Springwatch’ approach to oak processionary moth, according to Johanna Gibbons of J&L Gibbons. ‘We need to raise the profile of the seriousness of the issue,’ she said. ‘It’s critical that the spread of the moth is contained with regard to the health and vigour of our most wonderful long-lived broad-leafed tree.’

Johanna Gibbons is a member of the Forestry Commission’s recently formed London Forest and Woodlands Advisory Committee (FWAC) and was concerned that awareness of the threat that it poses was not sufficiently widespread. ‘I was concerned that this information should go out more to the public who take a real interest in trees and the wider profession, not just to urban foresters,’ she said.

This time of year is critical, she said, because it is the time when the larvae are hatching, and this year the warm dry spring has resulted in hatching about four weeks early: ‘It would be good if there was a Springwatch type approach where people could report suspected sitings of the pest, as available on the Forestry Commission website.

Oak processionary moth is only one of the diseases hitting our precious large specie native trees due generally to milder weather; the caterpillar’s hairs can result in a skin rash, when touched. Other diseases are ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea), massaria (Splanchnonema platani) affecting plane trees, and a bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi causing the development of bleeding canker in horse chestnuts.

‘We need to be diligent in specifying trees and require supply nurseries to present relevant plant passports,’ Gibbons said. ‘Landscape architects should work closely with supply nurseries. Typical procurement tends to separate designers from contractor, from the nursery. It should be viewed as all one process. This is what the latest British Standard is about, BS 8545:2014 Trees: from nursery to independence in the landscape, published in February this year.’

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