Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Great Chestnut Trees of Europe Are Dying

Visit the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris and chestnut trees greet you as you wander among graves of luminaries such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.

When Anne Frank was in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, the view of a monumental chestnut tree was one thing that cheered her up.

In Cambridge, England, the two-century-old chestnut standing outside King's College chapel has become a beloved icon.

In all those places - and over much of Europe - the horse chestnut tree is under threat.

Sometimes they crash across boulevards and smash cars, unable to bear the weight of their own foliage. At other times, city officials move in and cut them down before they collapse.

In high summer, their leaves can become so rusty it feels like October. As autumn approaches, many stand naked while other trees still wear their crowns of green.

The culprits: a moth that produces leaf-eating larvae and a bacterium that makes trunks bleed and die.

`'In a sense it is almost like a lethal cocktail," said Dr. Darren Evans of the University of Hull. "If it is under attack by moths, it is probably going to be more susceptible to this bleeding canker - which will kill it."

A cure? Not immediately in sight. more