Monday, January 24, 2011


Sad news for mariniers and riverains on the Canal du Midi. Two thousand platanes--some of which are bicentenaries--are being cut down along its banks in an effort to curb a rapidly spreading and mortal fungal tree disease. Authorities say the fungus, ceratocystis platani commonly known as chancre coloré du platane, was undoubtedly imported to the south of France from the United States during WWII via wooden munition crates. France's Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) has determined that neither chemical nor biological treatment can halt the fungus which kills a healthy platane within two to five years. The INRA estimates that nearly 50,000 platanes have already perished in France alone since the fungus was accidentally introduced; platanes in Italy, Switzerland and southern Greece have also been menaced by the disease.

Reports are that the plane trees will be replaced by a broader diversity of trees to lessen the risk of  another large-scale devastation wiping out an entire monoculture.

The good news is that researchers at the INRA have created a hybrid variety of platane,  Vallis clausa, or platanor which resists the deadly fungus.

 Click on the images to enlarge more of my favorite photos of platanes taken on a barge trip on the Canal du Midi, below.

Plane trees reflected in the Canal du Midi.

Like an Impressionist's dream.

Along the chemin d'halage.

Vocabulary lesson
Marinier: bargeman
Marin d'eau douce:  landlubber (perjorative)
Riverain: riverside or riparian property owners
Platane: plane tree
Chancre coloré du platane: colored canker stain of plane tree
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique: National Institute of Agronomical Research
Chemin d'halage: towpath along the bank; horses and men walking along the banks once pulled the barges to advance them along the canal. These are now favorite paths used by bicyclists and walkers.

For more about the amazing Canal du Midi, the grande dame of European canals and a UNESCO world heritage site turned vacationing barger's paradise, click here.

Text & photos © P.B.Lecron

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