Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Disease threatens ancient trees

Plants such as rhododendrons are affected by the disease

Ancient trees in the grounds of a historic estate in Derbyshire are under threat from a fatal disease.

Gardeners at Kedleston Hall have found more than a dozen plants infected with sudden oak death.

Staff have taken steps to destroy affected rhododendrons but are concerned the disease could spread to old trees in the grounds.

Sudden oak death is caused by the fungus Phytophthora ramorum and causes plants to rot and die.

Disease resistance

Paul Johnson, Kedleston Hall's head gardener, said the disease took hold very quickly.

"Quite a few rhododendrons have just rotted and died which means we have had to take them out, burn the stumps and clear that area.

"If a plant has it, it has to be destroyed. We're going through a restoration scheme within the pleasure grounds so we are cutting back a lot of overgrown shrubs so they will regenerate and hopefully have more disease resistance.

"We're asking people to stick to the paths and not go into the soil beds, especially in the parklands where we've got ancient, veteran trees and it's a threat to them."

Sudden oak disease originated in western America and tends to affect camellias, rhododendrons and laburnums in the UK.

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