Consider the Ash

by: Tony Arnoldi, Board Certified Master Arborist, WI-0102B

We all know by now the plight of the Ash genus in our state (and ultimately in the continental United States) due to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). The response to this can be largely summarized by the following strategies: 

  1. Do nothing and remove ash trees as they are killed by EAB.
  2. Proactively remove ash trees in order to lessen the landscape’s dependence on them. This also helps to spread out the huge removal cost once ash trees die more rapidly.
  3. Plant non-ash trees to replace losses or to anticipate losses.
  4. Treat selected ash trees with the very effective, but more costly, trunk injection of insecticide for 2-years of protection (repeated every 2 years for sustained protection).

These are good strategies, used singly, or in combination. They can help mitigate the great change to our American landscapes and forests that this impending infestation will cause. It is to this thought that I bring up a good point that fellow Certified Arborists have made before me: a lot of the thinking so far has largely relegated the ash to a “written-off” status. Even though we may have chosen a few of the most important ones in our landscapes to save, the vast majority are going to be lost. Should we easily dismiss ash in our considerations of the American forest?

Diversity is a very important aspect of any plant community. It helps to increase the health, beauty, interest, adaptability and wildlife carrying capacity. Ash currently comprise about 18% of the forest. This is a significant portion. The large seed crops provide food to many kinds of wildlife. They are considered highly adaptable to various, even difficult, site conditions. For that reason ash have been used extensively as street trees. Not that many trees perform really well as street trees. Large natural areas in the Metropolitan Area (such as much of Ozaukee county, River Hills, North Shore, etc.) are predominantly ash.  I think we will miss ash.

My point here is simply to step back and re-assess your position. Probably, some thoughtful decision-making went in to choosing an ash tree that is very important to save. This is a very good thing. I wish to remind us all that we are now at a crossroads. The rate at which the infestation has surged has surprised many. The recommendations that Wachtel has made have mostly changed to trunk injected insecticide, as advised by the researchers, to effectively treat chosen trees. And now, if there is a second ash or group of ash that you have noticed is very important to your landscape, consider adding them now. EAB will make decisions for us before long (and is already deciding for many of us). Or we can forever hold our peace, and remember how it used to be…

Let our Wachtel Certified Arborists help in evaluating and prioritizing your ash collection to see if any further additions make sense. You might be thankful you did.

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