Vermont’s Ash Trees Will Die

It was distressing to pick up the Burlington Free Press this morning and read Nancy Remsen’s story on the impending invasion of the emerald ash borer, which will kill the state’s beautiful ash trees.

Photo from Perdue University shows an emerald ash borer

 The beetle has already killed millions of the trees in the Midwest since turning up near Detroit in 2002. The closest the bug has been known to come to Vermont is a spot 17 miles south of Montreal. It’s inevitable the pest will arrive here.

The state is installing about 480 traps to detect the borer. You’ll see them all over roadsides, a bluish purple prism tied to trees.

Photo by Glenn Russell of the Burlington Free Press shows an ash borer monitoring trap in Vermont.

As Remsen notes in her story, ash trees comprise about 5 percent of Vermont’s forests, and are popular as street trees in towns and cities, as they resist damage from salt and pollutants.

The death of the state’s ash trees will be a real loss. They are useful as wood for furnture and other products, but I just like looking at them.

In the fall, their changing leaves offer a purple and gold counterpoint to the reds and oranges in the sugar maples. Ash tree leaves come out a little later in the spring than other tree species. So the ash leaves in May are these tender mint green colored splashes amid the darker green of mature leaves.

Ash trees offer nice shade in the summer, too.

It seems invasive pests kill the best stuff in Vermont and elsewhere, but nothing seems to harm pests. We’ve lost American chestnut trees and most of the state’s graceful elms to diiseases brought in from elsewhere in the world. Vermont’s beloved and economically crucial sugar maples could succumb to the Asian longhorn beetle.

Have you noticed that pests or diseases are killing off the the useful and important honeybees, but nothing seems to bother black flies, mosquitoes and deer flies?

Invasive, annoying plants like garlic mustard weed intrude on precious trillium flowers. Unpleasant animals like rats thrive; others are threatened by diseases.

So is the landscaping going to convert from something beautiful, varied and vibrant, like Vermont has now? Or is it just going to be a land of annoying weeds, biting insects, and barren slopes where gorgeous forests once stood?

I know that’s all hyperbole, but any time I see a plant, a tree, an animal that adds to the joy of living in rural Vermont come under attack and die,  I die just a bit, too.

2 Responses to “Vermont’s Ash Trees Will Die”

  1. denis Says:

    well, that’s depressing.

    your last sentence is exactly my sentiment as well.

  2. Landscape: Restoring Vermont Elms? « Matt-of-all-trades Blog Says:

    […] hope it works, as I’ve said before, desirable species like ash trees, and all kind of other plants and animals are under assault in […]

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