The oak tree is one of the most magnificent and iconic symbols of the countryside. Against a backdrop of rising concern about the risk of bringing in the deadly Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) from imported oaks, Hillier Trees has noted a surge in demand for British grown oak trees.
“Comparing this season to last, we have experienced a 23% increase in the volume of oak trees we have quoted for,” comments Adam Dunnett, Amenity Sales Director at Hillier. “Our placed orders for oaks, however, have increased by 93% year on year, showing the real interest in securing British grown oak trees. If we look at orders in particular for Quercus robur, the English oak, these are up an amazing 107% since last season.”
Oak Processionary moth
It is the caterpillars of the oak processionary moth that are perilous to oak trees, as well as a danger to humans and animals. The caterpillars feed intensively on oak leaves, leaving them open to other pests, diseases and stresses. For people and animals, contact with the hairs of the caterpillar can cause skin rashes and breathing difficulties.
OPM was accidentally introduced to England in 2005 and there have been attempts to minimise its spread ever since. It is established in most of Greater London, but reported instances of OPM outside of London have, unfortunately, grown significantly in 2019. Many of these cases have been traced back to imported oaks by DEFRA / The Forestry Commission. In light of this, in July 2019, DEFRA made the decision that oaks could only be imported into the UK from OPM-free countries. This effectively excludes imports from the majority of European countries.
“There is some good news for those hoping to plant oaks,” says Adam. “Oak trees that are British grown from outside of the London area are OPM free and safe to buy, despite some stories to the contrary.
“Hillier have a wide variety of oak trees available, all British grown on our field and container tree nurseries in Hampshire. These range from 10-12cm girth all the way up to 100-110cm girth — these largest ones have been growing on our field nursery for 30 plus years! OPM is a serious concern for the industry, but we are pleased to say the fate of the oak in England is by no means sealed.”