Ash dieback found in Somerset
Ash dieback has been found in an establish woodland in Somerset, it was confirmed yesterday.
Two earlier cases have been recorded affecting newly planted trees in the county - the first of which was near Nether Stowey in November 2012.
But now another affected area of woodland has been identified near Minehead. It is the first time the disease has been found in mature trees.
The disease has now spread to 564 sites across 15 counties in England.
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Defra said officials were "not surprised" to discover ash dieback in Somerset as it had already been confirmed in neighbouring counties, such as Dorset.
Head of sustainable forest management at the Forestry Commission, Andrew Smith, said: "Across most counties in England we have found cases of recently planted trees with infection.
"The next step in progression is when we find the disease starting to circulate in the wider environment.
"So what's happened on a small scale in this woodland near Minehead is that the disease is now no longer confined to the patch of trees that were planted a few years ago."
Experts have said the disease poses a danger to the UK's population of 80 million ash trees.
The most visible sign that a tree is infected is bleeding sores and cankers on the bark, and discolouration of the underlying sapwood.
The sores often surround branches in the infected area of the tree, causing the dieback of shoots, twigs, branches and smaller stems.
The disease has also been shown to infect ash tree leaves, appearing as blemishes.
There are numerous other diseases that display similar symptoms, making it difficult to identify for most people.
Anyone who feels they have identified an infected tree should contact one of the UK's tree health agencies.