In the fall of 2017, I wrote an article about the devastating and depressing effects of the emerald ash borer (EAB) on our ash trees. Since it was first detected in southeast Michigan in 2002, this pest has spread to 35 states and the District of Columbia. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), it is likely there are additional, undetected infestations, thus the reason for this follow up article. The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is native to China, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Russian Far East, and it likely arrived hidden in wood packing material used to ship consumer goods.
Common to our area are the green ash and white ash. Both were popular for shade trees in urban and suburban areas because of their autumn color and fast growth. Ash was harvested from Ohio’s woodlots for baseball bats, basketry, cabinetry, wood packing materials, tool handles, furniture and firewood. As a newly married couple, our first kitchen table and chairs were made of ash.
The invasive EAB can attack and kill healthy trees, no matter the setting. The larval stage of this insect tunnels through the bark and into the tree’s cambium, the thin layer of living tissue just under the bark of the tree. The cambium makes cells that become new xylem, phloem or cambium. Since the phloem carries sap from the leaves to the rest of the tree, and the xylem carries water to the leaves, disruption of this system means eventual death for the tree, usually within three to five years.
As if that wasn’t discouraging enough, an additional threat is emerging from the EAB and ash tree story. Ash wood is strong and lightweight; however, when exposed to the elements, it has little to no resistance. Our dead and dying ash trees have been exposed to the elements for several years now, making them very brittle and dangerous, earning the title of “widow makers.”
The Ohio State University Extension’s Buckeye Yard and Garden onLine recently published an article by Dr. Joe Boggs entitled “Ash Breakage: the Hazard Continues,” which can be found at bygl.osu.edu/index.php/node/1216. The article is complete with photos and captions. As explained in the article, taking down these unpredictable trees is a job for someone with experience and the right equipment, not the average homeowner!
Hazardous ash trees are an issue for homeowners, woodland owners, parks and recreational professionals, developers, road crews, utility companies, and government officials. Really, everyone should be on the lookout! Ron Goodger who lives near Cassopolis, Michigan, began tracking road crashes caused by dead ash trees when his wife totaled her mini-van, luckily escaping without injury. An internet search with the words “dead ash trees killing people” will bring up his information. Woodland owners with concerns about their ash trees can find resources at forestry.ohiodnr.gov/landowner assistance, and communities with street trees can check out urban forestry assistance at forestry.ohiodnr.gov/urban. Homeowners can find a list of certified arborists and verify their credentials at www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/arboristsearch. According to Purdue University, if an ash tree has lost more than 30 percent of the canopy, make plans to remove it.
To keep Ohio’s tree canopy healthy and vibrant, whether in the city or the country, we encourage you to replace your unhealthy ash trees. “Ash Replacements for Urban and Woodland Plantings” can be downloaded for free at www.emeraldashborer.info/documents/OH/AshTreesOH.pdf. You will find color photos and extensive information about 35 different species suited to our growing conditions.
For more conservation information visit Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District at www.delawareswcd.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.