The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is asking Rhode Islanders to monitor their beech trees for signs of leaf damage from Beach Leaf Disease (BLD). Early symptoms of BLD include dark striping on the tree's leaves parallel to the leaf veins and are best seen by looking upward into the backlit canopy. Drastic leaf loss occurs for heavily symptomatic leaves during the growing season and may appear as early as June, while asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic leaves show no or minimal leaf loss. BLD was detected in the Ashaway area of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, in 2020 and in coastal Massachusetts. Before these findings, the disease was only known to be in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.
Because of the seemingly random nature of disease in Rhode Island, DEM encourages homeowners and forest landowners to monitor their beech trees and report any suspected cases of BLD on DEM's Invasive Species Sighting Report webpage. Although BLD is relatively new in the U.S. and information is limited, links to additional information about the disease and photos are posted on the Division of Forest Environment's Current Threats page. If people have further questions, they should contact a licensed arborist or email Nancy Stairs, forestry program supervisor in DEM's Division of Forest Environment, via Nancy.Stairs@dem.ri.gov.