Athens’ Unique Mulberry Trees on the Brink of Extinction Due to Insect Damage

People enjoying the shade of mulberry trees in an Athenian square. Credit: AMNA

Approximately three hundred and fifty mulberry trees in Athens have been decimated by a wood-boring insect called ”Xylotrechus Chinensis,” and another 1,000 have been infested, Athens municipal arborists said on Tuesday.

These beautiful and now characteristically-Athenian trees line some of the capital city’s major streets, including Vassilissis Sofias (Queen Sofia’s) Avenue.

The mulberries were planted years ago for their environmental benefits for cities as well as their resilience even in tough urban landscapes.

To address the problem, the municipality of Athens contacted the Agricultural University of Athens, the Benaki Phytopathological Institute and the Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems in the last several weeks, all of which suggested that certain measures must be taken.

Sakis Kollatos, Athens Deputy Mayor for Greenery and Lighting, spoke of “an environmental disaster” regarding the insect’s damage and stressed that “we are taking all initiatives to replace the affected trees, to stop the spread of the disease, and to share know-how together with the science agencies in Attica and the rest of the country.”

Athens suffers from a fundamental lack of green spaces, having the unfortunate distinction of being known as one of Europe’s less “green” capitals.

This new and worrying development brings back to the surface the need for additional natural spaces and a diversity of tree species all across this busy metropolis.