Samantha Titheradge – School of Forestry, Australian National University

Claret Ash, Fraxinus oxycarpa Raywood is a popular ornamental tree widely planted in Canberra for its exquisite red autumn foliage.  Many trees are today exhibiting crown dieback which takes several seasons to become apparent and eventually ends in tree death.  The cause(s) of this dieback are unknown.  They could be caused by an unknown pathogen or be related to site conditions.

This study aims to provide data on the speed with which the dieback advances through tree crowns, and to identify any links between the dieback and other environmental factors such as tree age, the level of tree maintenance, inherent site parameters, and site disturbance.

The project focuses on dieback in Claret Ash street trees in four suburbs, Ainslie (established in 1944), Narrabundah (est. in 1947), Weetangera (est. 1970) and Gowrie (est.1981).

DISMUT (decision information system for the management of urban trees), 1997-2000 showed dieback in these suburbs varied from 5% and 11%.  The present survey in 2002 showed 29% and 54% respectively indicating that dieback in these suburbs is rapidly increasing and is therefore a major problem in Canberra’s urban forest.

The average diameter at breast height of trees varies across the four suburbs.  When looking at the effect of dbh on dieback it was found that in the 0-5cm dbh class, healthy trees exceed trees with dieback.  For those trees in the 6-14cm dbh class, trees with dieback are generally equal or exceed healthy trees.

A statistical analysis of the data collected from the survey suggests that large diameter trees are more likely to suffer from dieback than small diameter trees.  Trees are also more likely to suffer from dieback if their roots are not exposed.  Another interesting result was that trees growing on slopes are more likely to suffer from dieback than those trees growing on level ground.

As the second part of this project, the duration and severity of dieback on tree growth will be examined by studying the annual growth rings.


  1. Colin Boston on December 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Hello, I am in Sydney, Hawkesbury area. My Claret Ash trees are about 3 years old, now about 5/6 metres tall. This season dieback has occurred on 50/60% of tree. Thought frost damage at first, still some unformed green leaves, sap still green. Last year no problems all seemed normal.
    Does this sound like problems in Canberra?

  2. Brian Stacey on February 20, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Our Claret Ash trees are approx. 12 years old & have been ok to date ,but lately the leaves are curling & dead branches are appearing. We are in the Bathurst area & has been very dry. Could you help ?? Thankyou.

  3. Adam on June 16, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    My claret ash seems to have a extremely a lot seed pods on it, all the leaves have fallen off.
    Do the pods eventually fall off ?

    • Glenn Williams on June 27, 2019 at 6:08 am

      Hello Adam,
      Before chasing up advice, can you send an image or two to illustrate what you have described?
      TREENET Team
      [email protected]

  4. Gary Pickering on November 20, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Has anyone encountered dieback in the central trunk region of the desert ash, (close relative to the claret). Periphery is general OK. Intersrted on anyone’s thoughts as to the cause here in Canberra. TIA

  5. Gary Pickering on November 20, 2019 at 9:55 am

    It is a Claret Ash after all. Does this help with comments/suggestions? TIA. Gary

  6. Kevin on December 5, 2019 at 10:34 am

    This is the first year we have noticed a distinct lack of leaf foliage at the top of the tree..the tree which is 34 years old, has also produced a sucker off the trunk..what I’ve read online this would suggest dieback. Are there any remedial action that can be undertaken?

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