“When you get the fungus in your woods, there really isn’t anything you can do,” says Ditte Olrik, a biologist with the Danish Nature Agency. Like the rest of Denmark’s foresters, scientists and countryside lovers she has gone through stages of denial, anger and finally acceptance. “When you get it, it’s bad,” she said.

Nearly all the young ash trees died first. Mature trees hang on for longer, lingering for years sometimes as the fungus slowly kills them, spreading into the wood after it gets into the leaves. Bark splits, leaves blacken, tiny mushroom-like fungus grows on twigs, and treetops die, even if there are signs of life lower down the trunk.

When it arrived in Europe some nations tried to stop it. But nothing has worked. “They tried burning infected trees in Norway but it was very expensive and had no effect,” Mrs Olrik said. “Children sing songs about the ash in school,” Mrs Olrik says. “And according to the old stories, when the ash trees die, chaos follows.”

A tiny number of trees seem to be immune to the fungus — perhaps as few as 120 in the entire country, Mrs Olrik believes, although possibly more.

The fungus has been a disaster for Denmark’s foresters, wiping out the most valuable timber they grow. Now foresters everywhere are cutting their trees as soon as the fungus shows up, producing, rather bizarrely, a glut in the market of a tree which will soon almost vanish.