If there’s a beech tree on your property here in northeast Ohio, you may have noticed some changes. The leaves may have been curling, withering, and drying long before fall foliage changes should begin. Or maybe you’ve been noticing dark lines on beech tree leaves.
Both are signs of what is being called beech leaf disease (BLD).
First discovered in northeast Ohio in 2012, the symptoms have a name but no cause is known – which means that there is not yet a way to treat this disease. Arborists, horticulturists, the USDA Forest Service, Ohio Division of Forestry, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Holden Arboretum, and Ohio State University have all been working to determine the cause and how to prevent or treat it, but so far to no avail.
Here at Independent Tree, we’re fully aware of this disease and how it is affecting your trees – we see trees affected by it every week. We’re keeping abreast of all of the latest developments as they are released so we can help your beech trees as soon as there’s an effective treatment.
How to tell if your beech tree has BLD
If you have a beech tree, examine the leaves. Early signs of beech leaf disease are dark stripes or bands on the leaves. You’ll notice this between the veins of the leaves. The best way to view this is from underneath, with the sunlight shining through. The stripes on the leaves might eventually begin to pucker, becoming thicker than the leaves themselves.
Later, lighter stripes may also appear, and then the leaves begin to shrivel.
In larger trees, the disease tends to start at the lower branches and move upwards.
What You Can Do About Beech Leaf Disease
Unfortunately, at this point, there is not much that can be done for beech trees that are showing symptoms of beech leaf disease. Until a treatment is found, a severely affected beech tree will eventually die and have to be removed.
Maintaining your trees through professional arboricultural practices and building the health of the soil around them are the best ways to keep your beech trees strong and vigorous. Additionally, if you have other types of trees that are susceptible to diseases or pests, be sure that they are properly treated and pruned to keep them as healthy as possible.
Latest Developments in BLD
In early May, botanists and arborists held a workshop to discuss the issue and to share resources. A plant pathologist hypothesized that the disease might be caused by a new form of microscopic worm. The worms, called nematodes, have recently been discovered on beech leaves. So while there is of yet no proof, it’s another area that scientists are researching to determine the root cause of beech leaf disease.
For more information and to see pictures of trees that have been affected by beech leaf disease, you can view this informational handout from the Ohio Division of Forestry.