Deep-rooted passion to protect the nation's oak trees celebrated at show

The campaign, to protect the UK’s 121 million iconic oak trees from pests and diseases, has been officially launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Action Oak, announced by Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner, and backed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, contributes to the government’s 25-year plan to improve the environment by strengthening biosecurity and building resilience to protect our nation's oak trees for future generations. 

RHS Ambassador Alan Titchmarsh visited the Action Oak stand at Chelsea alongside Michael Gove on Monday (21 May 2018), to show their combined support for the campaign and its intentions.

Michael Gove praised Action Oak, as a collaboration of charities, organisations and world-leading research, working to protecting our native oaks. He vowed 'the government wants to work with the best of expertise from across the industry to help protect plant biosecurity.'

The Action Oak initiative is calling for support from the public, to help it raise £15 million for research and monitoring of the mighty oak. 

With successful funding the initiative will:

  • Capture the first detailed picture of the current health of oak trees, to gain a greater understanding of how to preserve their iconic position in our landscape
  • Study the effects of insect defoliation on oak tree health and whether it increases oak’s susceptibility to other diseases
  • Inform and influence changes in the long-term management of oak and build oak resilience
  • Launch a project monitoring oak tree health using citizen science
  • Establish long-term silvicultural trials, and testing effects of silvicultural management practices, to alleviate tree stress, over five years
  • Fund genetic sequencing of 2,000 oak trees across the UK.

The UK has more ancient, native oak trees than all other EU countries combined and losing them from our landscape would impact our wellbeing, economy, environment and the hundreds of species that rely on them. In a statement of unity and defiance against the threat posed to the indispensible species, Michael Gove said: 'Ensuring plant biosecurity requires vigilance between the government and industry.'

As another influential supporter of the campaign, a 3D scan of Dame Judi Dench’s favourite oak tree has been used as the backdrop to the Action Oak display at Chelsea, alongside information on the most dangerous oak pests; the grey squirrel, oak processionary moth, acute oak decline and powdery mildew.

Other supporters of the campaign present at the show stand were Geraint Richards, Head Forester Duchy of Cornwall, Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer, Lord Gardiner, Biosecurity Minister, and Lisa Smith, Head of Tree Health Policy & Plant Health Evidence & Analysis at Defra.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.