During our BYGL Zoom Inservice today, the group discussed the continual hazard presented by ash trees that have been killed by (EAB, Agrilus planipennis). Participants located throughout Ohio noted that walks in the woods remain a serious risk with dead ash trees breaking apart or toppling over onto walking trails.
The point was driven home to me during a recent hike in a nature preserve in southwest Ohio. The number of broken or fallen trees – both large and small – was dramatic. However, what was most frightening were the number of hazardous EAB-killed trees that remained standing next to or within falling range of the hiking trails.
The trees had been dead for a number of years. Some trees laying on the ground broke apart early owing to the somewhat brittle nature of dead ash. However, the continual downfall of dead trees that we're now experiencing is largely due to something a bit more subtle.
Ash wood is both lightweight and strong which is why it has long been used for baseball bats as well as old, multi-story factory floors. Indeed, beautiful blond-colored ash wood remains a highly durable wood flooring product.
However, ash has an inherent fault: the wood has little to no resistance to decay if exposed to the elements. This is one reason ash was not used for fence posts, outdoor siding, porch flooring, or for anything else where the wood could not be protected.
Continual failure of standing dead ash trees is occurring as wood rotting fungi digest the xylem fibers that sustain structural integrity. The fungal presence is made apparent by fruiting structures sprouting from the broken ash trunks and branches.
Astronomical spring arrives tomorrow foretelling warmer temperatures. We're not recommending you forgo a hike in a park or nature preserve out of fear of crashing ash trees. However, we do urge caution. Pay attention to the trees around you; particularly dead ash trees if it’s a windy day. You should also report hazardous trees located near trails to park and preserve managers.
Cutting down hazardous dead ash trees protects the safety of visitors. However, taking down unstable dead trees with a chain is not a job for the faint of heart; inexperience can kill. It's highly recommended that the job is performed by experienced tree removal professionals. Good or bad, the widespread ravages of EAB in Ohio has given arborists a great deal of first-hand experience.
You can find International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) credentialed arborists in your area by visiting the ISA website and searching "Find an Arborist" using your zip code or city. See "More Information" below for the hotlink.