Massaria disease of plane trees

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Massaria disease (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Massaria disease infects the branches of plane trees (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Plane trees are common in parks and other amenity planting, and are a particular feature in London.

What is massaria disease?

Over the last several years there have been problems with decline and dieback of branches due to a fungal disease called Massaria. While it doesn’t seem to severely affect the health of trees, branches may fall off, causing concerns over health and safety, since many plane trees are in busy urban areas.

Symptoms

  • Seen in mature trees over 40 years old
  • Strip of dead bark along the top of the branch, tapering to a point.
  • Death of smaller branches within a year. Dead flaking bark, with orange sap wood exposed
  • Symptoms more difficult to see in larger branches, as the dead bark is on the upper side.
  • Branches may decay and fall within a few months

Causes

  • Fungus Splanchnonema platani, found in the UK before, but did not cause any serious problems until recently

Outlook

  • The fungus only causes minor damage in warmer Mediterranean climates, but has been found associated with branch death and rapid decay elsewhere in Europe (Germany and Austria, the Netherlands, and parts of France)
  • In southern USA it has causes more damage and is more widespread.

Import restrictions

The government introduced tighter controls for all imports of plane (Platanus) in November 2013 in response to the increased threat from Ceratocystis platani (plane wilt or canker stain of plain).

This fungal pathogen has been responsible for the death of thousands of trees across Europe, including decimating the famous Canal du Midi, a UNESCO world heritage site in France that is lines with 42,000 plane trees.

As a result anyone now moving plane trees into, out of or within England and Scotland must ensure they hold the necessary plant passport confirming the plants have been grown in an area or country officially shown to free from the disease. Similar legislation for Wales and Northern Ireland is expected to follow shortly.

Report it

If you think you’ve spotted this disease please inform the Forestry Commission using the Tree Alert reporting tool. Three good-quality digital photographs are required to aid identification.

For more information visit the Forestry Commission.

Trees face huge challenges

With more new pests and diseases reaching our shores tackling pests and diseases is now an urgent priority

Learn about the threats