Phytophthora infestation at Gregynog

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2012

Phytophthora ramorum is a serious fungus-like pathogen especially devastating to Oak trees in Europe and the USA. It was spotted on three trees on the Gregynog Estate. Remarkably, as few as ten outbreaks have been reported in the whole of Wales. This is probably because this serious disease has either not been noticed or not been fully reported. It is to the credit of the management on the Gregynog Estate that their infestation was spotted, reported and the trees disposed of according to Forestry Commission and other expert advice.

A Phytophthora infestation in the USAPhytophthora also infects a number of other woody species especially Rhododendrons. Rhododendrons are considered a carrier for the disease and Gregynog are following expert advice in undertaking a programme of removing all the “non-ornamental” Rhododendrons from the Estate. Hundreds of acres of woodland will be freed of this non-native species. A decade or so ago, when teams removed rhododendrons from the hillsides of North Wales they were attacked by angry locals and tourists who were reluctant to see these colourful plants removed from the landscape. With the promise that the ornamental Rhododendrons on the front lawn will be preserved the cull at Gregynog should go peacefully. Today people are much more aware that the Rhododendron is a pest.

The woodland clearance could be a great opportunity for many flowering plants and animals to recolonise the Estate. Gregynog are seeking both grants and advice about the clearance programme and will welcome suggestions from the public. Surely Montgomeryshire Beekeepers should be in the forefront in recommending strategies to increase the biodiversity of the Estate. The greater diversity of plant life will be better for all bees. Remember also, honey from native woodland plants tastes far better than that from Rhododendrons!

Arthur Finlay