Plants are essential to everyone's lives. Welcome to Plantlife.

New fungal disease discovered in threatened juniper

Plantlife is extremely concerned as a serious fungal infection is found in juniper in County Durham.

February 14 2012

Juniper berries © Beth Newman / Plantlife

Juniper berries © Beth Newman / Plantlife

Phytophthora austrocedrae, recently confirmed in Britain, is a fungus infection that is usually fatal to infected trees. It has been confirmed on common juniper in northern England as well as on Lawson’s cypress and Nootka cypress in Scotland.

Plantlife welcomes the news that Natural England, the Forestry Commission and FERA are working together with the landowners to contain and minimise the damage to this nationally important population.

County Durham has already suffered a 43% loss in juniper in the period 1987-1999 and it is vital that all is done to curtail the spread of the disease. We hope that this will include warning signs to the public so that they can take action to avoid spreading the disease to other populations of this threatened species.

Plantlife has revised biosecurity advice to field staff, volunteers and contractors in line with this development and would encourage other land management organisations to do the same.

In Scotland, the UK’s stronghold for juniper, Plantlife Flora Guardians act as an early warning system at key juniper sites, using a tested methodology, suitable for volunteers, to assess juniper population health. In addition, Plantlife runs management and restoration projects throughout Britain, with the aim of restoring populations to full reproductive capacity.

“While Phytophthora species are a part of wild ecosystems, the potential impact on key plant species and habitats in wild is of great concern" says Plantlife Scotland Conservation Manager Deborah Long.

"Just as we would like to see effective action in place to prevent the spread of Phytophthora ramorum into wild blaeberry in Scotland, we would also like to see effective, preventative action in place to prevent the spread of into other juniper populations across the UK. We fully support the action taken at Teesdale to limit spread to other sites and would ask visitors to follow all on site advice as well as sign up in Scotland as a Flora Guardian to help us monitor the health of juniper populations across Scotland.”