(WETM) – The New York State DEC is asking residents to be on the lookout for a tree disease that is tearing its way through the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

Beech Leaf Disease (BLD) could be an even bigger threat than Beech Bark Disease, the DEC said. Since 2018 when it was first detected in Western New York, BLD has been found in 35 NY counties, 14 of those in 2022 alone.

A map provided by the DEC that shows where BLD is present as of Jul 11, 2022, shows much of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier region seeing BLD for the first time since January.

Distribution of Beech Tree Disease as of July 11, 2022/Image: DEC

The DEC said much is still unknown on how BLD spreads, but it can kill mature trees within six to 10 years, or saplings within two years. There is also no known treatment for trees that already have the disease.

Leaves on beech trees will have dark stripes between veins if infected with BLD, the DEC explained. Severe infections will leave more stripes and crinkled, leathery leaves. The stripes are easiest to see when looking up through the leaves from below.

“The decline of beech in New York could have far-reaching consequences, including significant changes to the composition of our northern hardwood forests and the loss of a valuable food source for wildlife,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Beech Leaf Disease affects all beech, so the impacts would also be felt in our urban forests where ornamental beech trees, including the popular copper beech cultivar, are widely used for landscaping and street trees.” 

The DEC landowners across the state have recently requested more BLD diagnoses and treatments as tree health declines. Anyone who notices the disease is encouraged to report it through the DEC’s Invasive Species map.