Box tree caterpillar pests at Sceaux and the fungus killing the Plane trees along the Canal du Midi

In time for Le Notre’s 400th anniversary celebrations and the ongoing recreation of a huge 17th century parterre in its gardens, we visited the Parc de Sceaux http://domaine-de-sceaux.hauts-de-seine.net/ which is just south of Paris. Putting aside for now our thoughts about the cost and overall sustainability of doing the parterre, it could be a bit worrying if the new planting included Box hedging…

Along both sides of the cascading fountain, and in the garden of the Petit Chateau, is evidence of widespread defoliation due to the pest Box tree caterpillar, which lays its eggs under the foliage and munches its way through it.

Parc de Sceaux: La grande cascade
Parc de Sceaux: La grande cascade

The Box tree caterpillar and the white webbing it produces around its feeding areas, can be seen in the photo below, taken in the hedges along the cascading fountain at Sceaux:

Box tree caterpillar in its white webbing
Box tree caterpillar in its white webbing

Wandering around the other areas of this vast and impressive park and gardens – a favourite place of Kate’s from when she lived nearby in the late 1990s, we saw that a section of the Petit Chateau garden was closed to the public to allow the Hauts-de-Seine County Council to carry out biological control against the Box tree caterpillar.

Parc de Sceaux: garden of the Petit Chateau
Parc de Sceaux: garden of the Petit Chateau
Notice at the garden of the Petit Chateau
Notice at the garden of the Petit Chateau

Later, spending the autumn in Aude, Languedoc, we kept passing alongside or going over the Canal du Midi on our different journeys. The magnificent Canal du Midi runs from Toulouse to Sete and is lined by 42,000 Plane trees (Platinus x hispanica). A UNESCO world heritage site, it was built in the late 17th century as part of a 360km network to link the Atlantic and the Mediterranean seas.

View of the Canal du Midi
View of the Canal du Midi

Tragically, the lines of trees are being slowly killed by a fungal disease called Ceratocystis platani, which explains the shocking sight of felled and burnt trees that we saw at Homps:

Stumps from recently cut down Plane trees
Stumps from recently cut down Plane trees
Burnt trees alongside the Canal du Midi
Burnt trees alongside the Canal du Midi
Canal du Midi at Homps
Canal du Midi at Homps

Locals tell us that the banks of the canal are going to be replanted – not least to provide shade for the tourists on cruise boats, with a more sustainable mixture of tree species.

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One thought on “Box tree caterpillar pests at Sceaux and the fungus killing the Plane trees along the Canal du Midi

  1. Yikes, box tree caterpillar – they are horrid!! I had a run-in with them the spring before last after planting a box pyramid bought at a reputable garden store. Unfortunately it seems to have come already infested, and once it got a bit warmer the caterpillar stripped the whole thing more or less bare!! I spent two hours picking off hundreds of caterpillars – miraculously, the plant recovered completely!!

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