• Gus Hetcher

Save your forests in the wake of Emerald Ash Borer (and other pests and diseases)

Wisconsin’s landscape has been subject to drastic changes since it was settled. One notable change has been our tree species composition. Many factors can determine which trees grow in our forests. These factors include soil type, climate, hydrology, fire, light availability, and disease. Landowners may not understand these factors and consequently struggle to establish or maintain a healthy forest.

While you may own a healthy forest now, it likely will not remain that way on its own. As we settled the United States, we brought a plethora of foreign tree diseases with us, some of which are just beginning to leave their scar on Wisconsin. Historically, trees such as American Chestnut and Butternut were major components of our woodlands. Introduced fungal diseases have since wiped out or severely reduced these tree species. Another foreign fungus, Dutch Elm Disease, has devastated our elm species. The American Elm was an important wetland tree and a beloved yard tree. Other species of elm, such as the Rock Elm, occupied our upland environments and were also affected. A genus of trees similar to elms, the ashes, have since taken their place. White Ash occupies habitats like those of the Rock Elm, and was widely used to replace American Elms as a yard tree, as was Green Ash. Green Ash and Black Ash both became characteristic denizens of our swamps. Unfortunately, our ash trees are now being wiped from the landscape by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect.

So how do we maintain a healthy forest? Unfortunately, the future for our neighborhood ash trees and bottomland ash forests looks bleak. But this does not mean our forests and swamps need to become graveyards of dead ash tree skeletons; there are many other native trees that can be planted in their place. Diversity is key to stability. Having a diversity of tree species makes your woods less prone to disease and ensures you will still have a forest should a disease eliminate one species. Planting a variety of tree species suited to your site conditions will diversify and reforest your property and will bolster your property’s aesthetic value and wildlife production.

There are several tree species native to Wisconsin that can be planted in bottomlands and wetlands to replace ashes and elms. These include: quacking aspen, river birch, white cedar, sycamore, silver maple, swamp white oak, Canadian hemlock, tamarack and white pine.

There is no need to sacrifice your woodlands, or shade trees, to insect pests and foreign tree diseases. The biologists at Cason & Associates are ready to meet with you to assess your property and work with you to develop a forest management plan that will keep your outdoor spaces vibrant and healthy. Along with consulting, Cason & Associates also sells a variety of native tree species. We offer tree planting services as well. Check out the enclosed order form and give us a call to get started!

Emerald Ash Borer

White Pine Tree

Quaking Aspen Tree

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