Chestnut, Elm, Ash…

All of these trees have had it rough, here in the US.  Chestnuts are down to a handful of individuals.  I don’t remember the last time I saw an elm tree.  On the other hand ash trees, at least around here in central Ohio, are easy to pick out: they’re the dead ones.  All of these species have been the victims of one thing:

Globalisation.

Now, I know it sounds like I’m about to run off on some tinfoil beanie rant about how the UN wants to force everyone to wear the Mark of the Beast, and line up to receive their Soylent Green ration before trudging off to the local collective farm.  But that’s not it!  At least, not at the moment.  Anyway, the point is that none of these native trees would have suffered the fate that it did except for globalisation.  All of them suffered attacks that came from literally oceans away, to wit: East Asia.  Chestnut Blight, Dutch Elm Disease [described by a Hollander, not from there], and the Emerald Ash Borer all come from East Asia.

Now there are other trees suffering similar fates like dogwoods and white pines.  But those mentioned are the big three around here.  All were thought to be infected by accident.  Packing crates are the usual suspect.  There are “analog species”, e.g. the Chinese Chestnut, in East Asia for all of these afflictions, but they have immunities not present in American species.  So when these beetles and fungi got to America, it was like opening a buffet, to the detriment of our native species.

How this ties in with me here in central Ohio is with ash trees.  The Emerald Ash Borer is present here, and you can certainly tell.  Trees just about reach sexual maturity, and are struck down (about 10-20, usually).  Remember a picture like this from science class?

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The part of the tree that’s still living is the cambium.  All that wood is previous layers of cambium that have been laid down over the years.  But that cambium is incredibly thin.  The borers eat only the cambium, leaving trails full of frass (bug poop) behind.

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Eventually, all those little trails munched through the living part of the tree meet up around the trunk.  This girdles the tree, severing the connection between the roots and leaves, and the tree dies.

So all these dead trees have to go somewhere.  Blowdowns occur, but they’re wasteful.  I heat with wood, and all those dead ash trees keep me warm in the winter.  But at the moment, they’re keeping me excessively warm.

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That’s three ash trees back there.  I HATE doing timbering in the summer.  It’s hot and muggy and the bugs make life miserable.  But where these had to come from was across a field that is pretty swampy most of the time.  After a recent dry spell, I was able to get the truck over to them without getting stuck, so carpe diem and all, before the winter winds knocked them over in an inconvenient manner.  I’ll use most of this for fuel, but I should be able to get some nice timber out of it for use in the woodshop.

And what about the slash?  Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

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