Sooty bark Disease/Maple bark disease

‘Cryptostroma corticale’ or Sooty bark Disease/Maple bark disease

Sooty bark disease originated in the US and the first examples of it in the UK weren’t noticed until the 1940’s when it first appeared in areas of Essex. Since then it has continued to spread both here and abroad and in 2015 it was noticed in Switzerland for the first time.

The disease is characterized by wilting, branch die-back, severe bark shedding and by the black phialospores in the bark by the fungus invading the cambium and phloem of affected trees.

It is special in that it is one of those rare disorders that affects both trees and humans.

The fungus can not only kill a sycamore tree, it can also cause a serious condition called pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs) in humans that come into prolonged contact with the spores of the affected trees.

Paul Elcoat of the Elcoat Ltd has produced and distributed a recent COSHH assessment and record sheet which contains information on how to manage the risks in order to minimise/eradicate exposure.

Inhaling the spores could trigger asthma like symptoms or an allergic reaction which is why it is vital that Surveyors should be able to identify Sooty bark disease in order for appropriate controls to be put in place prior to works commencing and staff should also be able to identify the disease should they be called out on emergency works to an affected tree.

The risk to the tree surgeon/groundsman is through the inhalation of the spores so the following PPE is required to carry out works on an affected tree:

In addition, those working with and affected timber from an affected tree must wear the following:

In light of this new COSHH information, Beechwood Trees and Landscapes Ltd will now carry out additional training this month with our Surveyors and all our Tree Staff in order for us to be able to identify Sooty bark disease affected trees and put the appropriate control measures in place.


With thanks to Paul Smith from the Arboricultural Association for updating us with this information. One of the company benefits of being part of the Arb Approved Contractor network.


Jim Pennington
Compliance Manager
Beechwood Trees and Landscapes Ltd