Home Gardening Blog

Is It Ashes For All The Ashes?

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Is It Ashes For All The Ashes?

Not for my ash tree – at least for now.  The decision to protect the green ash tree (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) in our yard did not come lightly.  Much deliberation over saving this tree has occurred over the last several months since hearing that this spring the destructive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) (Agrilus planipennis) has officially been found in the St. Louis area.  In anticipation of this day, I have spent countless hours availing myself of the numerous articles and helpful publications regarding the arrival of this “bad bug” with inevitable loss of the entire unprotected ash tree population.  I recall when I was young a similar ominous march of a fungal infestation called Dutch elm disease which wiped out the native American elm population.  Interestingly, I inherited a very large old American elm in the yard of our current home when we moved there in 1993.  How it ever survived till then is a mystery to me but as fate would have it, Dutch elm disease took it out two years after we moved in and of course on our nickel – or lots of nickels!

The removal of my 60+ foot ash tree would not be cheap. Yet the decision to maintain the tree for the remainder of its existence does not come cheap either.  I used several of the helpful decision making flow charts written just for this purpose but did not settle on the conclusion to save our ash until consulting with an arborist.  In my case this tree is in good health and provides considerable western shade for our house and patio.  Since we plan to remain in this home until our children are grown, we have decided to maintain this mature landscape feature until we leave and let future owners decide how they want to proceed in the years to come.  This is one of those situations when Mother Nature is calling the shots.  With advances in technology we can stave off the inevitable for a while but even I realize that planting a new tree to take the place of my ash is the wisest thing I can do for those who come after me.  In addition to the maintenance of the ash tree, I have a young fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) nearby which is in the same family as ash (Oleaceae) and has also now been identified as a secondary target for the EAB.  Both these trees will need to be treated for the remainder of their time in this yard.  Fringe trees are spectacularly beautiful when in bloom and I always look forward to its fleecy, fragrant white flowers in the spring.  They have been a popular understory landscape tree for years but will unfortunately fall off the list of recommended flowering trees in the future.

If you live in this area and own an ash tree then it is decision time for you too.  For information on identification and current control measures see our Integrated Pest Management page, “Emerald ash borer” and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) webpage, “Emerald Ash Borer Management.”  The MDC has produced a reference “Emerald Ash Borer Management Guide for Missouri Homeowners” which contains a handy flowchart to help with this difficult decision.  You can also pick up a copy of this guide and other helpful handouts on EAB at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening.

A new resource just added to our website is the visual guide “Native Alternatives for Ash, Siberian Elm and Other Shade Trees.” It has excellent recommendations for good trees to plant to replace a dead, dying or threatened native ash tree. At the end of the visual guide is a link to a resource at Iowa State University that expands the list to cultivar of native trees as well as other good introduced trees.

Jan Gowen, Kemper Horticulture Assistant

| Categories: Fall | Tags: ash, emerald ash borer, insects, native trees, trees | View Count: (3064) | Return
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