Inventory of avenue trees being prepared; disease can kill trees in 5 years

An inventory of avenue trees in the capital is being prepared following the detection of a deadly fungal attack in some.

The decision comes after C. Gokulabalan of the Department of Plant Pathology of the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, found the contagious Ganoderma root rot in a couple of trees. The inventory is being prepared as part of the move by Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Company Limited (TRDCL), the concessionaire of the City Road Improvement Project (CRIP), to protect the trees.

Prof. Gokulabalan said a huge avenue tree near Keltron was felled a couple of years ago following the fungal attack. “My requests to save the tree were not heeded even by the city Corporation. Since the TRDCL has come forward to save the avenue trees, we will give them the technical support,” he told The Hindu.

Already, two avenue trees, one near the Kowdiar junction and the other near the Women’s Club, are showing symptoms of the fungal attack. Immediate measures are needed to save them and to prevent other trees from getting affected.

There are 286 avenue trees in the Kowdiar-Vellayambalam-RR Lamp corridor. TRDCL has been handed over the corridor as part of a 15-year maintenance contract. CRIP Director Anil Kumar Pandala said a tree register would be maintained and the inventory would have the number, name of the species, location and health of trees.

Yellowing, wilting, or undersized leaves and dead branches are the symptoms exhibited by infected trees. The first visible sign often is the formation of mushroom-shaped fruiting bodies on the lower trunk and exposed root areas.

The rate of decay can lead to death in 3 to 5 years from the time of infection. The spores released from the fruiting bodies will infect open wounds on roots and lower trunk of susceptible trees. The spores germinate and the infection advances. Cutting the affected branches and treating the root are the solutions. Fertilizing, watering, and pruning will help maintain the tree’s health. Care must be taken to prevent damage to trunks and roots when road works are taken up since wounds from mowers can lead to infection.