Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Upland Ash Trees

While I was in the woods, I spent some time visiting the ash trees. This is a White Ash, Fraxinus americana. Emerald Ash Borer beetles have been confirmed in Pike County, so it’s only a matter of time before they get here. I’d like to think they will miss my little piece of the world, but that’s not likely to happen. While I can, I’ll just enjoy having these big healthy trees growing here.

White Ash are strong, tall trees that claim their own portion of the upper canopy. There’ll be quite a hole left when this tree comes down. This tree outweighs most of its neighbors and will probably take a couple of those down when it falls.

The White Ash is a tree of the upland woods and has opposite branching compound leaves. You’re not likely to get a close look at the leaves of most big woodland ash trees. Occasionally you’ll find a stump sprout or side shoot that gives you an idea of what’s in the canopy.

This particular tree displays the fuzzy stems and leaves characteristic of a variation sometimes referred to as Biltmore Ash.

The other large upland ash at Blue Jay Barrens is the Blue Ash, Fraxinus quadrangulata. The bark of the Blue Ash forms scaly plates instead of the deep furrows and high ridges of the White Ash.

Blue Ash has the typical ash type leaves, but the new twigs are square in cross section and often exhibit a slight wing along the corners.

Both of these species of ash are integral components of the upland forest species mix. There are still a lot of young ash trees in the woodland understory. After the Emerald Ash Borers kill the mature trees, these young ones will try to exploit the suddenly available space. It’ll be decades before we know if the ash has been lost from the woodland forever. I only know that if these trees are lost, I’ll never see their like here again.

Ten years from now, this may be how we view the once mighty upland ash. I can picture myself sitting on a fallen ash log, wondering how the woodland will adjust to this latest change to its ecosystem.


  1. Oh......this is so sad. Ten years ago when we bought our house, we did so because of the huge Ash Tree in our backyard. It is a gorgeous tree. I can't imagine my yard without it. Ash Borers have been sighted northwest of us. I know it's only a matter of time...
    I've read about treatments to try to protect individual trees. Some studies say yeah! Some say neigh! Do you know if anything can work if administered every two years......seems it would just be prolonging the inevitable.

  2. Kelly - All the treatments I've read about have had mixed results. Identical treatments show tremendous success at one place, then dismal failure at another and all said a yearly application was necessary. If there's a 100% effective method of protecting ash trees, I've yet to hear about it.

    1. Steve, that's all outdated info from 2008!

    2. Hi, Scottie. That's probably because this was posted in 2009.

    3. Hi Steve.
      Always find good info on your blog! I had a puzzling Ash in Ky this week. I am hoping its Blue. Also, I read Blue Ash is 50% resistant to the EAB, little green buggers!


    4. Hi, Cheryl. An encounter with a large Blue Ash can often be confusing. I've known more than one professional forester to misidentify this species in the field. I'm hoping that Blue Ash's EAB resistance is not a myth.