SUNDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2010INDEX

  She's stopped stooping?
According to the Forestry Commission (Massive survey probes the secrets of Britain's forests- August 26, 2009) there are now 2.75 million hectares of woodland covering 12% of Great Britain (about twice as much as in the early 20th century). This is not necessarily a great advance for society since the Forestry Commission (especially in the early years of its life) had a tendency to plant dead areas of monoculture (single species), including conifers which acidified the land. But it's probably better to have more tress than less. Certainly one of the best things about the London Borough of Waltham Forest (where I live) is the large number of trees (perhaps more than any other London borough).

But all is not well in the world of at least one tree species. Following in the wake of Dutch Elm's Disease another alien tree exterminator seems to be doing its worse: the leaf miner moth which attacks conker trees. Like the most recent financial crisis, this moth originated in Greece. There is no cure for it (hopefully unlike the financial crisis) and it has already infected one in two horse chestnut trees. According to the Royal Horticultural Society there soon won't be a single conker tree in Britain that doesn't suffer from the pest.

The moth doesn't kill trees but it does weaken them and make them more liable to suffer disease like bleeding canker, which kills trees.

It comes at just the wrong time because the kids have stopped playing conkers and an apparently healthy tree a few yards from my home is producing large quantities of crop but the local kids are just letting them lie on the ground until they rot or get swept up by the road sweeper. Is this a double wammy for the conker? Will it be lost as a result of a combination of an incurable alien invader and a lack of demand? Well, probably not. Most of these species manage to cling on somewhere (an isolated location or an island), ready to re-populate the mainland when there is an opportunity. But count on one thing: there will be fewer people stooping to conker in the next few decades.

Posted by Jonathan Brind at 03:21
SUNDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2010INDEX