Beech leaf disease (BLD) is a mysterious disease that is currently contributing to a localized yet significant decline of beech trees. Initially discovered in Lake County, Ohio in 2012, the disease has spread rapidly, impacting at least 24 counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, with some representation in Ontario, Canada. A causal agent has not yet been identified, however, studies have found an association with a foliar nematode (Litylenchus crenatae).
American beech (Fagus grandifolia), Oriental beech (Fagus orientalis), and European beech (Fagus sylvatica).
The first signs of beech leaf disease are striping or banding (darkening) between leaf veins, giving the tree foliage and canopy a distinctive appearance. These stripes can also be seen in the spring at early leaf-out. As the disease progresses, the foliage becomes thickened in texture and edges will shrivel, pucker and curl. Deformed leaves will gather near the tips of branches, and canopy thinning will occur. After time, the canopy will thin further and die back due to the lack of bud development and poor production of leaves. Recent observations suggest that sapling-sized trees may die between two to five years once infected.
There is no current known remedy for BLD, however, it is important to report any signs or symptoms to your local arborist. As more information is gathered and awareness is created, there is hope that the data collected will help slow the progression of this disease.