2012-08-16 / News

Island beech trees should be treated again


Linda and George Warner (from left), along with Jamestown’s tree warden Steve Saracino (right), watch as an application expert treats a European beech on their property. 
PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM RUGH Linda and George Warner (from left), along with Jamestown’s tree warden Steve Saracino (right), watch as an application expert treats a European beech on their property. PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM RUGH The huge fern-leaf form of the European beech found at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church is a signature tree of the island. More huge beech trees can be found in Jamestown, but they are not native trees. They originated in Europe.

These majestic trees are under attack. In the past two decades many in southern New England have mysteriously died. Steve Saracino, the town’s tree warden, explained that it was recently discovered the initial cause of beech decline is a soil-borne fungus – 40 percent of European beech trees in the area have the disease.

The good news is there is an inexpensive way to prevent the fungus from taking hold. 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 in southern New England that might otherwise have died have survived.

In 2011, the Tree Preservation and Protection Committee treated all European beeches on town land. The work was done by North-Eastern Tree Service of Cranston, which provided the service to the town at cost.

In addition to the trees on public land, North-Eastern Tree Service also offered to treat any European beech trees on private land in Jamestown for just the cost of the material. Many town residents took advantage of the offer and had their beech trees treated last fall.

The tree service has again agreed to treat European beech trees in Jamestown on private property for $100 per tree. The treatments will be made on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Saracino said that the fungus apparently only attacks large European beech. “The current recommendation is to only treat larger European beech trees,” he said.

He suggested that property owners use a flexible tape to measure the circumference of the trunk 4 1/2 feet from the ground. If the tree has a circumference at least 89 inches, it should be treated. Smaller trees are at less risk and treatment is not critical.

According to Jim Rugh, chairman of the tree committee, the town has a partial list of European beech trees on the island, but not all. “We are sure that we are missing some,” he said. “If we can’t see the tree from the street, we simply don’t know where they are.”

Rugh said letters will be sent to all residents who had a beech treated last year. Other property owners with large beech trees who are interested in the program should contact Saracino at Town Hall.

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