Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Green ash: Beautiful, fast growing tree in peril

Fraxinus pennsylvanica


Green ash tree blossomsGreen ash blossoms

Our green ash tree is blooming, and its blossoms are interesting in their own way, though not as flashy and visible as the ornamentals and fruits. In fact, an unaccustomed eye might not even notice these strange, dark little flowers.

This summer, the seeds will appear in clusters. They are eaten by songbirds such as cardinals, purple finches, and cedar waxwings, by quail and wild turkey, and by rodents and some other small mammals. Green ashes are not considered an important wildlife tree, though they certainly have some wildlife value.

One of the virtues of green ashes is that they are fast-growing but have a fairly long life compared to many fast-growing trees. Their lifespan can range from 100 to 150 years.

Our green ash is a large mature tree. It has grown in an open, moist area with no other tree nearby to affect its spread, and it has a truly beautiful shape. It has suffered ice damage in a couple of bad storms we've had, but we pruned its broken branches and it still looks good.

However, I think that it is partially hollow and that yellow-jackets have built a nest in it! I see them flying up to a certain area of the trunk and then disappearing.

Ash trees of all types are in grave peril from an exotic insect that is making its way across the nation -- the emerald ash borer. Apparently it was brought in from China in wood pallets. Much information about this tree killing pest is available on the internet. Probably the best thing you can do to protect your ash trees is to avoid bringing ash firewood onto your property.

I haven't heard that the emerald ash borer has reached Kentucky yet, but it is probably just a matter of time because it is in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. I read that the National Forest Service has stockpiled ash seed just in case the emerald ash borer wipes out the entire U.S. ash population. Let us hope it doesn't come to that, but it doesn't look good.

Green ash tree Our green ash last September

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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