What Is Beech Tree Disease

WHAT IS BEECH LEAF DISEASE?

Beech leaf disease was first noticed ten years ago in Ohio. A decade later, the ailment has spread and ravaged native beech trees, as well as European and Asian varieties, across Eastern America. Since beech leaf disease is a relatively recent discovery it is an even bigger threat to your beech trees. 

The Danger of Beech Leaf Disease

Beech Trees are one of the most important trees in the ecosystems of the Eastern United States. They are valuable to many forms of wildlife and make up a substantial part of forests across numerous states. 

Mature beech trees may live up to a decade before they are killed by the disease. However, the younger a tree is, the quicker it will succumb – some saplings have only lasted a year.

beech leaf disease puckering Photo Jim Chatfield OSU

Puckering, or raised areas between veins, may distort leaf shape. Photo courtesy of Jim Chatfield, OSU Extension.

Identifying Beech Leaf Disease

As the name suggests, the signs of beech leaf disease can be noticed in a beech tree’s leaves. Therefore, symptoms are only visible from spring until autumn, when trees have leaves. As the deciduous trees shed their leaves when the weather gets cooler, you cannot tell if a beech tree has the disease once its leaves have fallen. 

The best way to observe if beech leaf disease has taken hold of a thicket of trees is to observe the canopy, which may be thinned. If it is in the early stages, not all leaves may be affected yet. Trees may even have inconsistent severity of symptoms from branch to branch. Some branches of a tree with beech leaf disease might not be affected at all, while others could be so infected that they have begun to produce fewer leaves and buds. 

In general, the symptoms will present with leaves that have physical deformities or visual changes. They may appear to curl or have dark stripes spreading between the veins. There may also be a shift in the texture of the leaves, which can become thickened and leathery.  As the disease progresses, an infected beech tree’s leaves will turn yellow, dry out, or wither, as well as prematurely fall.

Beach Leaf Disease Striping

Dark, thickened stripes between leaf veins are early signs. Photo courtesy of Jim Chatfield, OSU Extension.

Why Worry About Beech Leaf Disease?

Beech trees are an essential part of nature. They produce beech nuts, which are a food source for many forms of wildlife, big and small, from birds to black bears. Furthermore, beech trees are home to many animals. If beech trees continue to be killed by Beech Leaf Disease, the impact will not be limited. Many creatures will be affected by the loss.

Beach Leaf Disease Late Stage

In late stages, beech leaf disease may cause extreme leaf distortion and curling. Photo courtesy of John Pogacnik, Ohio DNR.

Distinguishing Beech Leaf Disease from Other Ailments

There is no cure currently, however, there is an experimental treatment recommended that may help. The best thing to do for all your trees is to work proactively to keep them healthy.

Because very little is known about the disease at this time, the most important thing is to continue studying it. Each time an infestation is found, this may help provide valuable information about the progression of the disease. It also allows methods of containment to be attempted and tests to be performed to uncover further knowledge about the implications and consequences of the ailment.

If you believe you have discovered an infestation of beech tree disease, you can help by reporting it. Document the symptoms you’ve identified by taking photos, then submit them to your local or state government department concerned with forest health or environmental conservation.

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