Intense effort underway to find culprit behind rapid disease spread.
A confounding new disease is killing beech trees in Ohio and elsewhere, and plant scientists are sounding an alarm while looking for an explanation.
In a study published in the journal Forest Pathology, researchers and naturalists from The Ohio State University and metroparks in northeastern Ohio report on the emerging “beech leaf disease” epidemic, calling for speedy work to find a culprit so that work can begin to stop its spread.
Already, the disease has been found in 11 Ohio counties, eight Pennsylvania counties and five counties in Ontario, Canada. It’s characterized by dark-green “bands” that appear between the veins of the trees’ leaves and provide the first hint that the tree is diseased. In later stages, leaves become uniformly darker, shrunken, crinkly and leathery. Affected limbs stop forming buds and, over time, the tree dies. Young trees seem to be particularly vulnerable.
“It’s hard at this point to say where this disease will go, but it has all the hallmarks of something like emerald ash borer or sudden oak death, threats to trees that start slowly and quickly pick up speed. We seem to be in that rapid expansion phase right now,” said senior researcher Pierluigi “Enrico” Bonello, an Ohio State professor of plant pathology.
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