Field of Science

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday! What a great idea!
Fraxinus is the Latin name for ash. This figure illustrates white ash (1), red ash (2), black ash (3) and european ash (4), Fraxinus americana, F. pennsylvanica, F. nigra, and F. excelsior, respectively.
Unfortunately here in Lincolnland these great shade, forest, and timber trees are being treatened by an introduced insect, the emerald ash borer. This Asian insect is spreading and millions of ash trees will die as a result.
The American elm and chestnut have already been largely wiped out by imported fungal diseases, so this would not be the first time an important and major tree has been been eliminated by an exotic pest.
Unfortunately there isn't much we can do to save the ash, even by having ash wednesdays. By the time a pest like the emerald ash borer is discovered the type of drastic action it would take to eliminate the infected trees and create a large enough ash-less zone to stop the insect is literally beyond our capabilities. Millions of trees would have to be cut and destroyed, and many would be on private property, so image the opposition, protests, and legal actions. Imagine the expense. Imagine Lincolnland without ash trees.
What will happen when we lose all the ash trees? It probably won't have much of an impact on the success of our professional baseball teams here in Lincolnland; I think they've already switched to rubber bats. And of course all the unprofessional teams use aluminium bats. And it's hard to know what other species will become losers too because ash trees are now missing. But some sort of domino effect will certainly take place whether we notice it or not.
So enjoy ash Wednesday while you can. Time to go and hug an ash tree.
I can't wait for fig Friday!


Anonymous said...

One way to prevent the Emerald Ash Borer from devastating local trees is to not transport firewood, which serves as a taxicab of sorts for the tree-hungry little bug. People should buy only local firewood and not take it out of the area. For instance, don't bring firewood with you when you go camping. There's even an organization dedicated to this called Don't Move Firewood (

The Phytophactor said...

Thanks for the tip. While the Phactor gets all the firewood he needs from his own arboretum, people need to know the potential problems that come from moving firewood from place to place.
Here's the link.