2011-06-23 / News

Disease attacks island’s beeches

Jamestown Tree Warden Steve Saracino and Steve Kidd, a tree professional with North Eastern Tree Service, recently treated more than a dozen large European Beeches in Jamestown to prevent a new and deadly fungus disease.

Native to northern and central Europe, European Beech grows especially well along the south coast of New England. From the huge fernleaf form found at St Matthew’s Church to the huge shaggy trees at the Newport mansions, it is a signature tree of this area.

Saracino explained that for several years these huge trees have been mysteriously dying. It was discovered that the initial cause of Beech Decline, as it is now known, is a soil-borne fungus. About 40 percent of European Beech trees in this area have the disease.

Researchers found that drenching the lower trunk twice a year with sodium phosphite, a relatively benign fungicide, along with a penetrating agent, protects trees if they are healthy and slows the decline if they are diseased. Success to date has been good and hundreds of trees that might otherwise have died have survived.

The Jamestown Tree Preservation and Protection Committee decided to begin treating all European Beeches on town land. Sarracino mentioned this to North Eastern Tree Service of Cranston, which provides tree services to the town.

“They were impressed with our concern for these trees and made a most generous offer,” said Saracino.

Two weeks ago North Eastern offered to provide an initial treatment to any beech tree in Jamestown for just the cost of the material, hundreds less than hiring a company to treat a tree.

However, according to Saracino, “We had very little time as we needed to apply the products by late June.”

The town has an inventory of trees on town land, but not on private land. “The challenge was getting the word our to people quickly,” said Jim Rugh, the committee chairman.

A list of known European Beeches in Jamestown was developed and letters were sent out to property owners. “We probably missed a few trees, but it was very short notice,” Rugh said.

In addition to trees on town land, nine trees on private property were treated on Saturday.

“The chemicals can be purchased by a homeowner, so one of our objectives was to show them how to properly apply it to their tree,” Saracino said.

Saracino is working with North Eastern to provide an initial treatment to residents who were missed in the mailing. He said they can contact him at Town Hall. In addition, the tree committee’s page on the town Web site has more information about Beech Decline.

With a regular preventative program Jamestown’s majestic European Beeches can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

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