Saturday, June 27, 2009

The plight of the basket tree

I ran across a great blog posting by Mike Reichenbach about the battle to save the ash tree in the United States. If you live in an area where ash trees grow please consider helping out with this project.

Collect seed now to keep ash trees in Minnesota

September 16, 2008
Emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive species, threatens to kill Minnesota’s ash trees. In response, Andrew David, a University of Minnesota forest genetics researcher, and Mike Reichenbach, forestry educator with University of Minnesota Extension, began a project to protect the genetic diversity of ash in Minnesota.
Black ash stand near Cohasset, MN
Black ash stand near Cohasset, MN
Seed collected from wild-grown ash trees will be sent to a seed storage facility in Colorado. This is a proactive response to the presence of EAB in the upper Great Lakes region and the lack of a viable quarantine method to keep Emerald ash borer out of Minnesota.
Ash seed has been ripening all summer and will be ready to pick when the seed coat is brown. Collection of seed will begin in the next 1-2 weeks (around the end of September 2008) and can continue through much of the fall. Black ash seed will fall with the leaves while green ash seed will remain on the tree for awhile after the leaves have fallen. It will be easier to collect from trees before the seed is scattered by winds and rain. Persons wishing to collect seed should watch the ash seed collection webinar found listed under the webinars tab at the following website: The ash seed collection form can also be downloaded from this site.
Minnesota is host to three species of ash: white ash, green ash and black ash. While white ash is an upland species found along the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota; both black and green ash are common lowland hardwoods found throughout the majority of the state. Ecologically, black and green ash are the most important hardwoods in the lowland forest community. They represent 51 percent of the lowland hardwood cover type in Minnesota. Black ash is very important in native cultures as a source of wood for ash baskets. Both black and green ash provide a source of pallet, saw and veneer logs. All of Minnesota’s native ash species are threatened by EAB.
EAB was most likely introduced to the region when it was transported on wood packaging of an overseas shipment from Asia in 2002 to the Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario area. Within the United States the insect is most often transported on firewood. As of August, EAB has been found in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It has been responsible for the death of over 20 million ash trees despite quarantines on moving nursery stock and firewood out of infected areas.
This conservation effort will preserve the genetic variation for a future point in time when EAB can be controlled and ash species can be reintroduced to Minnesota using locally adapted seed sources.
For more information contact Mike Reichenbach, (888) 241-0724,; or Gary Wyatt, (888) 241-3214,, both with University of Minnesota Extension.
Reprinted with permission from

If the current population of ash trees are wiped out, if we can save seeds and replant, it will be 50 or 60 years before mature trees are available again. This would be devastating to all black/brown ash basket makers. Hopefully we can eradicate the emerald ash borer before total destruction of the trees.

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