I live in the city of South Burlington where roughly 13 percent of the trees are ash - a popular tree known for its fast growth, nice shade, and ability to adapt to a range of soil conditions, plus its golden amber colors in the fall.
Unfortunately, it’s now threatened by the spread of the emerald ash borer or EAB into the state. It’s been confirmed in Groton, Plainfield, Barre, Montpelier and, most recently, in the Bennington County town of Stamford on the Massachusetts border. EAB is considered likely to already be present in trees growing within a 10-mile radius of any detection site.
Native to northeastern Asia, this invasive jewel-green beetle lays its eggs in the bark of the Ash tree. It’s larvae feed on the inner-bark of the tree, carving tunnels that disrupt the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, causing the tree to starve, usually within three to five years.
According to Chittenden County Forester Ethan Tapper, EAB was discovered in Michigan in 2002, and it’s now known to be in thirty three states, including our neighboring states of New Hampshire, New York, and Massachusetts, as well as three nearby Canadian provinces. Its spread is thought to have been enabled by humans moving firewood from infested areas – effectively turning it into an unwelcome hitchhiker. As a consequence, Vermont is now under federal quarantine blocking the sale of firewood beyond our borders.
For economic and safety reasons, some towns are beginning to proactively remove their ash trees and replace them with a variety of species in an effort to increase diversity – like Accolade Elm, Swamp White Oak, Red Oak, River Birch, and Freeman Maple. Interplanting trees is another plan of action.
But experts encourage retaining ash seed trees as long as possible, so that if the EAB dies off after running out of larger ash trees to infest, there is a chance that these young trees could save ash as a species.
Now that cooler weather is returning, I’ll begin burning firewood in my wood stove once again, including ash.
And I’ll mourn the loss of this pleasing and practical tree as it follows the stately chestnut and the graceful American Elm into history.