A CENTURIES-old horse chestnut tree faces the chop after falling victim to a disease which first hit Hyndburn three years ago.
The imposing tree at the front of Mercer House in Mercer Park, Clayton-le-Moors, has succumbed to the fungal canker that caused the felling of trees in Memorial Park, Great Harwood, in 2002-3.
Hyndburn Council has reluctantly decided to axe the tree before it reaches the stage where its large branches start to fall, causing possible injury or damage.
Friends of Mercer Park have been researching the history of the tree and have uncovered a photograph of it from Victorian times when it was already mature.
The fungus affecting the tree, Phytophthora Bleeding Canker, is continuing to spread throughout the region and has infected a number of other prominent horse chestnuts this summer.
It penetrates the bark and then kills the living part of the tree just underneath.
This leads to large vertical fissures in the tree with strips of dead bark peeling away from the trunk, followed by the splitting and falling of the infected branches.
Infected trees die over three or four years and become increasingly hazardous due to the risk of falling branches.
Horse chestnuts have a soft and brittle wood that is prone to internal splitting and the disease makes this much worse. Trees in parks or near to roads must therefore be felled on safety grounds.
At this time of the year infected horse chestnuts have yellowish-green or bright yellow leaves in marked contrast to healthy trees whose leaves are deeper green. And there are generally clear signs of a split bark runing up and down the tree trunk.
Bleeding canker is one of a nunber of fungal diseases affecting trees that have increased in the North West over the past five or six years.
There are no known cures or preventative measures and many experts blame the warmer weather caused by climate change and global warming.
Councillor Brian Walmsley, the council's Cabinet portfolio holder for public open spaces, urged members of the public to look out for signs of the disease and contact either of the council's two tree officers, Mark Cocks and Katie Morley, on 380178 or 356203.