Trees show signs of destruction

Rachael Keating/Clinton HeraldAn ash tree along Camanche Avenue in Clinton shows signs of damage due to the emerald ash borer.

CLINTON — Ash trees in Clinton are dying.

And it’s becoming more noticeable as the emerald ash borer continues to wreak havoc across the United States.

The penny-sized beetle first surfaced in Clinton County in September 2015. The destruction starts slow, Bickelhaupt Arboretum Director Margo Hansen said, explaining that if the destruction is plotted on a bell curve, the city most likely is nearing the top of that curve.

“It starts slow, but as you progress, all the ash trees will come down,” Hansen said. “We’re not quite to the top of that bell curve. We will see a lot of dead ash trees in the next two to three years.”

With the destruction progressing, Clinton residents are taking notice and wondering how the city will assist residents with their dead ash tree issues.

According to the city’s tree ordinance, the city of Clinton will only remove street or park trees that are dead. And the budget, as published in reports last year, may not be enough to keep up with the growing demand of removing dead trees in the city of Clinton. The city budgets $50,000 to remove dead trees.

As of June, Streets and Solid Waste Superintendent Creighton Regenwether believes 40 percent of critical trees have been removed so far by the city of Clinton.

Stopping the spread

Once residents notice their ash trees are showing signs of decline, it doesn’t mean the trees can’t be treated. However, residents must maintain awareness so the destruction doesn’t spread.

“If you see some damage, get on it right away,” Hansen said. “If half or more of the tree is damaged, chances are you’re not going to stop it.”

Treating the trees can mean either the resident chooses to treat or a professional applies the treatment.

If the trunk of the tree is 20 or less inches in diameter, the resident can treat with a product either found in a liquid or powdered form. This option is sprinkled on the ground, generally in the spring, and the tree absorbs the product into the root system. It then travels up the trunk.

If the tree is more than 20 inches in diameter, the tree must be treated with injections by a professional. The expert will drill a hole in the tree and then inject a chemical that kills the EAB.

So when can a resident tell when the tree is beginning to fail?

“Believe it or not, woodpeckers will usually tell you,” Hansen said. “It sounds goofy, but woodpeckers can hear them and start pounding on the tree to find lunch.”

If the woodpeckers don’t start pounding on the tree, the tree’s failing health will present itself with a section of the tree dying. As the tree top dies, there will be a lot of growth around the base of the trunk of the tree, Hansen said.

“That’s the tree’s last-ditch effort to save herself,” Hansen said.

The city of Clinton is pursuing tree replacement funding, and when residents start to replace trees, officials are hopeful to create more diversification in species.

Ash trees were planted in response to the 1970s Dutch Elm Disease outbreak, which destroyed the green-arch elm trees of Fifth Avenue (like the rest of the Midwest).

Staying away from just one kind of tree is important for future generations, Hansen said.

“We just don’t seem to learn from past experiences,” Hansen said. “The ash tree was one of my favorite trees. It was a great street tree. A great tree for the yard. Over time, we overplanted ash trees. Now we’re a little concerned with maple and oak.”

Hansen isn’t discouraging people from planting maple and oak trees. However, she’s hoping residents avoid focusing on just those two trees in the coming years.