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Will ash trees go the way of the Siberian elm?
Remember the Chinese elm tree?
That's what we called them, and although they were actually Siberian elm, they were popular throughout Nebraska because they came from a semi-desert region and adapted well to our weather.
By the middle of the last century, however, they were dying from Dutch Elm disease, and we've spent the last few decades watching them being cut down and sawn into firewood.
Ash trees were much better, we heard, and were used to replace many of those old elm trees, providing shade and enhancing the value of our homes.
Unfortunately, as we celebrate Arbor Day, the ubiquitous ash tree's doom is on the horizon.
The culprit this time is emerald ash borer, which has yet to be reported in Nebraska, but has been confirmed in 21 counties in Iowa.
Ironically enough, emerald ash borer is native to Eastern Russia and Asia, and was first confirmed in the United States in June 2002 in Canton, Michigan, where it was suspected of having arrived with international shipments.
The larvae bore feed under the trees' bark, eventually robbing the tree of its ability to keep enough nutrients and water flowing to the leaves to stay alive. Left untreated, all ash trees in an infected area can be killed within five to seven years.
Barring an unexpected jump to this end of the state, it will be many years before the pest will strike Southwest Nebraska, but state and federal agencies will keep an eye on it.
And, the Nebraska Forest Service recommends waiting to begin treatment for ash borers until they are confirmed within 15 miles.
There are a number of ways to treat for emerald ash borer infestation, ranging from trunk injection, to sprays, trunk implants and soil treatment.
Meanwhile, you can avoid the problem altogether by planting one of the different species now recommended for Nebraska -- such as American linden, Little leaf linden, hackberry, honeylocust, miyabe maple, Ohio buckeye, Kentucky coffeetree, bur oak, chinkapin oak, English oak, Northern catalpa, black walnut, disease-resistant types of American Elm and many others.
Check with the City of McCook to take advantage of its tree rebate program if you plan to plant any trees this year.
For more information on trees, visit arboretum.unl.edu.