Michigan adds Beech leaf disease to invasive species list

Posted at 2:08 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 14:08:33-05

(AP) — Beech leaf disease has been added to Michigan’s invasive species watch list and state officials are asking residents to be on the lookout for trees infested with the damaging disease.

The disease, which has not been found in Michigan, was discovered in Ohio in 2012 and has been identified in seven eastern states and Ontario, Canada, said officials with Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Beech leaf disease is associated with a microscopic worm that enters and spends the winter in leaf buds. It causes damage to leaf tissue on American beech and European and Asian beech species resulting in darkened, thick tissue bands between leaf veins, creating a striped effect on the leaves, leaf distortion and bud mortality.

Trees weakened by leaf damage become susceptible to other diseases and can die within six years.

Michigan is home to about 32 million American beech trees.

“Many questions about beech leaf disease remain unanswered,” said Simeon Wright, a DNR forest health specialist. “Because of this, we don’t yet know all the ways the disease might be spread, and currently there are no known treatments to protect trees or reduce disease impacts.”

Invasive species on the state’s watch list have been identified as posing an immediate or potential threat to Michigan’s economy, environment or human health.

Residents who spot a beech tree with signs of the disease are asked to take photos of the infested tree, including affected leaves, and pass those photos and the tree’s location onto the DNR or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network.