Know Your Trees: Ash

Today on Know Your Trees, GM is going to discuss a sad story: the ash tree. Perhaps not as once beloved as the might American elm, nonetheless ash trees were once a common site all up and down the east coast, save for some coastal southern areas. But in the 1980s, the emerald ash borer (a type of beetle) was introduced to America from Asia and it quickly started killing ash trees. In the decades since, the tree has been devastated in America.

To put it in perspective, compare it to the aforementioned American elm. Dutch elm disease took out 200 million trees. The emerald ash borer threatens 7.5 billion ash trees.

GM would give you guidance how to find ash trees, but there literally are none left in Georgetown. There is, however, one corpse of one located behind A Mano at the corner of Wisconsin and Reservoir. It is behind the store:

According to city records, there are only 261 ash trees remaining in the district. Then again, the tree on reservoir is one of those 261, so the count may be high. Only 19 were identified in “good” shape. Only one was “excellent”, located in Lanier Heights:

Scientists are exploring if there are ways to contain the damage, but for much of the U.S. it is already too late. We can only work to prevent future blights by maintaining strong border checks on foreign wood (that’s how both the emerald ash borer and Dutch elms disease came to the U.S.). Also we can ensure better tree diversity. For a long time, people planted the same tree over and over again. This uniformity made for beautiful streets when those trees were specimens like the American elm. But it left our streets too vulnerable. Had towns planted oaks or zelkova next to each of those elms, we wouldn’t have been left with sun baked barren streets after the blight.

In Georgetown, the city is following this guidance. Where once there were rows of sugar maples, now mixes of plane trees, honey locust, oaks, etc. are sprinkled. With time and due care, we’ll have an even stronger and healthier canopy than we did when the ash were still around.


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