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Summary

Ash dieback is an emerging disease of Fraxinus excelsior in Germany. To date, economical damage is significant in nurseries, which also contribute towards spread of the disease, but damage to forests is increasing. The study presents the results of mycological and histological investigations on three hundred 3-year-old nursery ash saplings. The infection rate by the causative pathogen was determined for bark, outer and inner xylem, the pith and also separately for the above-ground portion and root system of the plants. The invasion and colonization strategy of the fungus in the woody stem was examined. In addition, the presence of soil-borne Oomycetes as possible primary or accompanying causal organisms was investigated. The results verify the dominant role of Chalara fraxinea as a causal agent of ash dieback and rule out the role of Oomycetes in the disease process. We conclude that C. fraxinea is not primarily endophytic in nature and spreads very effectively in the central stem tissues, which enables colonization of the woody stem in all three dimensions. Infections arising in the upper part of plants can thus spread extensively to lower parts.