Updated: Nov 21
Check out this youngster - it's a white ash sapling! Once, ash trees were the predominant tree in our local woodlands. Then in 2002, our ash trees were stricken by an invasion of the emerald ash borer. This handsome green beetle is native to northern Asia and is suspected to have found its way to North America in wooden shipping crates. The female lays her eggs in crevices in the ash trees' bark, and once the larvae hatch, they chew their way into the tree, cutting off the tree's flow of nutrients and water to its leaves, causing the tree to wither and die. By 2012, just 10 years after their arrival, tens of millions of North America's ash trees had been destroyed. Our local woodlots became a treacherous place to walk, filled with fallen (and falling) ash trees. Every windy day brought down more dead trees!
Today, those fallen trees have mostly decomposed into the forest floor, adding their nutrients back to the soil. Most amazingly, sprouting out of that humus-rich soil are ash saplings, stretching up through the dappled sunlight, to fill the space where their parent tree once lived. We can hope, that like their relatives in Europe, our ash trees will develop defenses to ward off emerald ash borers, or that our native predators, such as the woodpecker and nuthatch, manage to control the numbers of pests. Perhaps, given time, ash trees will once again thrive in our local woodlands. Isn't Mother Nature amazing?