That old chestnut

We’ve the sad sight all around us of horse chestnut leaves turning brown and dying. The first blotches in June, hardly noticeable, but by the end of July they scar the landscape. (And affected trees don’t it seems produce conkers.) The caterpillar of the leaf miner moth is the culprit. But there’s also the bleeding canker, which is about as expressive a name for an affliction of man, beast or vegetation that I’ve ever heard.

We all remember Dutch elm disease and the devastation it brought. It’s still hard to believe how quickly we lost one of the stalwart trees of Britain. I personally don’t blame the Dutch, and more than I hope the Italians blame us for zuppe inglese, or we the Spanish for their flu. 

Ironically it’s the Dutch (subconsciously influenced by wanting to restore their good name?) who seem to have come up with the answer. And what an answer. They’ve created an infusion of garlic which they inject into trees, and, well, it seems the caterpillars don’t like it, and curl up and die. I don’t know how it affects the bleeding canker. But there’s a chance that horse chestnuts will in future smell of garlic.

Let’s hope it’s not garlic after a good meal the night before, which will empty the pavements and parklands, but that wonderful smell of wild garlic which with its hanging white flowers is the only rival to the bluebell in the woodland spring, to my mind anyway.

The first British trees are being trialled with the injection next week. Hailes Abbey is I believe one location. I await further news with interest!

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