Summer of 22After such a dry winter and spring, it was always going to be a tough year for tree growth. Most trees in the UK seldom root any deeper than a metre, and at Stara we have many conifers, oaks and chestnuts thriving on less than 300mm of usable soil. Not so in 2022 when many have struggled to keep growing and have produced bumper seed crops to boost their chances of survival for the future. Trees seem to have faired better than they did during the drought of 1976. That year many old beech trees split their bark, then subsequently died of fungal infection 2 or 3 years later, and I have not seen that phenomena yet this year. If you cross-cut any tree more than 50 years old, you can almost always pick out the annual ring for 1976. This ring is very thin and usually slightly darker than all the other annual rings, as most trees failed to grow at all. 2022 may be similar.

Quite a few oak trees have proved the exception to this rule putting on long shoots both in the spring and again as lammas growth (Summer shoots named after Lammas Day on 1st August). This can only be due to oaks having deeper or more extensive roots than other species to give them this competitive advantage. Now that the weather is damper and humid, many of these fresh young oak shoots have been attacked by Powdery Oak Mildew which coats them with a white film, as in the photo. The mildew cuts out the light and the leaves shrivel up so all that extra growth is wasted. Powdery Oak Mildew (Erysiphe alphitoides)was first recorded in this country in 1908 and is thought to have been imported from North America. It is clearly a significant problem on young oak trees in warm damp summers but after 114 years, we have no idea if Powdery Mildew restricts oak growth in the long term. If we are going to have warmer and damper weather in the future, we may need to take it more seriously.

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