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Invasive Species Threatens Highland Rim Ash Trees

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Invasive Species Threatens Highland Rim Ash Trees

White and Green Ash Trees across the Highland Rim are struggling to survive due to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer.

The Asian wood boring beetle lays its eggs under the tree’s bark. When the eggs hatches, the larvae feed on the transportation tissues of the tree disrupting the movement of nutrients and water. Virgin Falls State Park Manager Stuart Carroll said thousands of ash trees have already died in Putnam and White Counties.

“We knew it was coming in. We expected to see a few trees here and there  that might killed by it,” Carroll said. “But, it has killed groves of trees in the past year or two. It is moving fast, and it is very lethal.”

Carroll said an effective and inexpensive insecticide to fight the beetle in large forests has not been found. The best practices to save ash trees right now are to quarantine and remove any trees infested. Carroll said to not distribute the fire wood afterwards since Emerald Ash Borers are primarily spread this way.

“Cities are really going to be hampered with the costs of removing the ash trees,” Carroll said. “A lot of land owners are. If you have a lot of large ash trees around your house, they can be expensive to get them removed before they fall.”

The beetle was first found in Michigan in 2002 and was identified in Knoxville in 2010. As of July 2020, 65 counties covering the east half of the state are quarantined for the forest pest.

“If you drive along the roads now, you look over the foot of the plateau or these rich woodlands you will see even before the leaves are falling, some gray stock trees often in grooves,” Carroll said. “Those are ash trees the emerald ash borer has killed.”

According to the USDA Forest Service and the Tennessee Division of Forestry, an estimated 271 million ash trees in Tennessee, amounting to $11 billion value, could potentially become infested with the emerald ash borer. Carroll said the leaves from the tree falling into water are also an essential part of tadpoles diet.

Virgin Falls spends about $1,000 yearly to keep a 200 hundred year old ash tree alive. Carroll said to contact your local forester for tips of treatment.


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