Disease strikes Tooting Common horse chestnuts

Published: 8 December 2015

Town Hall tree experts are currently assessing the health of some large trees on Tooting Common after it was discovered that many are suffering from a serious disease.

Significant numbers of trees lining the common’s Chestnut Avenue are showing evidence of bleeding canker disease – an infectious condition that causes trees to decline and eventually die completely.
This avenue of Horse Chestnuts that run north east from the junction of Tooting Bec Road and Dr Johnson Avenue towards Bedford Hill, was planted around 140 years ago and the  trees are now showing not only symptoms of bleeding canker – but also distinct signs old age and a variety of ailments and diseases which jeopardises their long term future.
Arboricultural experts are warning that this combination of factors means it is inevitable that many will die in the near future.
Trees of this age and with these serious ailments can also unexpectedly lose limbs/branches and to avoid this happening and to ensure there is no risk to the public, many have already undergone quite extensive pruning work.
However, there is no guarantee this will offer a long term solution to the ongoing serious health problems the avenue now faces.
Environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “As soon as we learned that these fine old trees were suffering from bleeding canker disease our hearts sank. It is a serious and highly contagious infection that may have already spread to other trees in the avenue that are yet to show any symptoms. The fact that unhealthy horse chestnuts can unexpectedly drop branches does cause us concern.
“What we are doing now is conducting detailed studies so we can be sure of as to the extent of this infection and of the other ailments that are affecting the remainder of the avenue.
“We are exploring all the possibilities available to us to try to find the best outcome for this landmark feature on the common and the best steps we can take to ensure that future generations of people can enjoy the beauty of this historic avenue.
“We have also started discussing this problem with the local group of residents who help us manage the common so that they are aware of these issues. 
“Whatever solution we come up with we will advise local people so that they can express their views and make suggestions about any proposed course of action. This is likely to happen early in the New Year and so in the meantime I would ask local people to be patient while we work out the best course of action.”
More information about the disease is available on the Forestry Commission’s website and also the Royal Horticultural Society’s.