A Southern red oak tree in Sussex has been confirmed as being the first UK tree to contract a serious disease affecting oaks on the US west coast.

The tree is infected with Phytophthora ramorum, a fungus-like organism which until now had not been seen in Britain on established trees. The oak is growing in an area where the disease had earlier been detected on rhododendrons.

Roddie Burgess, head of the Forestry Commission‘s plant health service, said: “While we are concerned that this disease has now been found on oak, this confirmation is an isolated case and we hope it stays this way.”

He said the 100-year-old tree is native to the US and only occasionally planted in the UK.

English white oaks nearby the infected tree are not affected but the Forestry Commission is continuing to monitor the situation.