Forestry Commission Scotland has commenced a felling programme of Japanese larch after tree disease Phytophthora ramorum was discovered to be infecting the species for the first time in Scotland.

The disease, known in the US as “sudden oak death” where it has killed large swathes of oaks, has already killed extensive areas of the species in south-west England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Infected trees were found in a forestry plantation on the Craignish Peninsula in Argyll. About 1.25ha of trees are being felled as part of measures designed to prevent the further spread of the disease.

“Following aerial surveys earlier this year it looked as if Scotland had remained free of ramorum disease on Japanese larch,” said Bob McIntosh, director of Forestry Commission Scotland.

“It was therefore a real blow when infection was confirmed at this site.

“Although the area of infected trees appears to be relatively small, it is still of real concern, so all the trees must be felled to try to minimise the risk of the disease spreading.”

The most vulnerable areas to infection is western Scotland because the disease thrives best in wetter climates.