Britain's horse chestnut trees, providers of conkers for generations of
schoolboys, are dying in their thousands in the worst case of tree blight since
Dutch elm disease 30 years ago.
The horse chestnuts, which often stand in majestic rows in city streets, are
being hit by a "triple whammy" of drought, pest attack and disease. On many, the
leaves have already withered and shrunk, and conkers, the fruits of the tree,
are not being produced at all.
Stands of horse chestnuts in the streets around the Royal Botanic Gardens in
Kew, west London have no conkers this year. This time last year they had a
carpet of conkers underneath them - as they have had for decades. For many boys,
looking forward to the age-old game, 2006 will be the Autumn Of No Conkers - but
the situation is far more serious than that.
The trees are being severely hit in many parts of Britain and according to the
Forestry Commission between ...