Killer fungus runs riot in Pittville

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At least some of the 6000-tree population of Cheltenham is now at risk from a killer fungus which spreads underground, attacking and killing the roots of trees and perennial plants.

Honey fungus is in Cheltenham, say borough council trees officers, and county council arborators have now confirmed that trees in Pittville have succumbed to the disease. According to Pittville Conservatives branch chairman Mike Evans, who first noticed the spread of the fungus into private gardens, honey fungus produces clumps of honey-coloured toadstools at the base of doomed trees. “Some species of this fungi invade trees, causing decay or death and spreading out to neighbouring trees and into residents’ gardens,” says Mr Evans. “There has been concern amongst residents for some time,” he says, “but it has not been easy to get the two tree departments, at town and county levels, to agree the fungus is present in Cheltenham. Residents first raised questions last year with their county councillor about the death of silver birch in the area but received reassurances that photos submitted of an infected tree did not actually have the deadly strain of the fungus present. “Honey fungus is the common name of several species of fungi within the genus Armillaria. It is the most destructive fungal disease in UK gardens,” explains Mr Evans, who researched the issue using Royal Horticultural Society data.

He went on to explain that trees offer great benefit to the residents of Cheltenham as they clean the air by removing certain pollutants, as well as by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. They also provide havens for all sorts of wildlife, including birds, bats and insects. Bat holes can be seen in the crowns of some of the trees in Pittville Park. “In the town’s Regency areas, trees soften the impact of the urban environment and can help to mask noise levels by breaking up sound waves. With the closure of the inner ring road at Boots Corner we’re going to need every natural asset we can muster to protect Pittville and All Saints residents from the increased local traffic flow and threat of increased emissions. “The Regency ideal was to transplant the countryside into the town by combining architecture with forest tree planting. Both Pittville Park and Montpellier Gardens have several exotic species within their planting, some of which are likely to originate from the initial establishment of the gardens. As such they are a valuable part of our Regency heritage and I call on council tree specialists to do all they can to conserve our natural heritage,” he concludes.