How a Little Green Jewel Beetle May Change Major League Baseball Lovers Way of Life—The Real Ash Trees

Leaves of ash trees were used to ward off snakes,

The White Ash tree (Fraxinus americana)

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Trunk of the White Ash with a 75 lb. Irish Water Spaniel sitting in front of it.

is another tree native to the eastern half of the continent. Unlike most other trees from the east, the USDA lists its native range as extending into Colorado. Flora of Colorado (Ackerman) says this species does not “persist outside of cultivation,” though. She also mentions it is very similar to the Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica,)  which is native to Larimer County as well as most of the rest of the continent.  Oddly, the Green Ash is also known as Red Ash. Unfortunately, both trees are on the critically endangered list. 

The national champion white ash, nominated in 2012, is in New Jersey and has a total of 398 points, compared to the Colorado champion which only has 288.9 points. The second and third largest Colorado ash trees are in Fort Collins, both in City Park, but only the smaller of the two is tagged. You can locate the runner up tree by using the Notable Tree Tour map of Fort Collins. The National Champion Green Ash is in Virginia. It has a total score of 355, while the Colorado champion, located in Greeley, has a score of just over 315.

An interesting early use of the ash tree

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White Ash tree-tied for 3rd largest in Colorado

was for people to stuff their shoes and pockets with leaves as these were said to ward off snakes. Ash trees in Viking legend involve the creation of man. Interestingly, this was also part of Algonquin Legends. In modern “legend” ash wood has figured in Harry Potter. More prosaic uses of ash lumber are in baseball bats, guitars, bows, hockey sticks and tool handles. Juicing the leaves

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White Ash leaves hit by two hail storms

results in a topical treatment for mosquito bites. The tree provides food for birds and other small animals as well as shade, and is a valuable member of the ecosystem.

The emerald ash borer is a major threat to the species. This introduced pest was first detected in the US in 2002, but it is thought that the first invaders appeared in Michigan in the 1990s. A similar invasion affecting European ash trees has been noted in Russia. As of this year, 33 states and three Canadian providences have been confirmed to be infected. Millions of trees have already been lost. In the Denver area alone there are nearly 1.5 million ash trees and in certain parts of Colorado ash trees could account for 80% of the urban forest. There are over 3000 ash trees in the city of New York. A bulletin was issued in October, 2017 that emerald ash borers had been found in the boroughs of NY.

Although this pest could be devastating to the ash population, there are steps that can be taken to help protect trees. Some of these involve not assisting in the spread of this problem. You can inoculate your own trees when the threat has reached your area. For a tree to be a candidate for injection or spraying, it needs to be healthy. Unfortunately, emerald ash borer is not the only threat to ash trees. The white ash is sensitive to ozone  and other gas levels and also prone to ash decline.

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Bark of the white ash tree

The Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation has a position paper on reasons and methods to work with this growing problem, as does the Society for Municipal Arborists.The Emerald Ashborer Information Network includes various links to assist individuals, neighborhoods and cities in working with this virulent problem. Nearly all states seem to have a set of guidelines to follow.

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Bark of the green ash

Why should this little green pest be of interest to you? Are you a fan of major league baseball? Did you know the bats used in league play, most of which are made by Louisville Slugger have used wood from an area now devastated by the emerald ash borer? If you are a woodworker, the loss of this abundant and inexpensive wood could be a factor in future projects.

An interesting study which should be of concern to all of us recently concluded human health can be linked to the loss of trees, specifically the ash trees. The presence of emerald ash borer and subsequent decline in the ash tree population was associated with an increase of over 20,000 deaths related to respiratory or cardiovascular causes.

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Winged fruit of the green ash tree.

At least some believe the increase in deaths is related to the ability of trees and forests to help humans deal with stress.

Another point to remember is that genus Fraxinus are the trees being devastated by the borer. Mountain Ash (Sorbus) trees are not affected.

Finding some of the ash trees in Fort Collins City Park.

Both a large green ash tress and a large white ash are located behind the tennis courts. You could park near the trolley terminal and walk West to find A78 White Ash (Fraxinus americana) located behind the pickle ball courts.

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Green Ash tree on the edge of the playground

Almost due South is the Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) E80. There is a smaller maple tree between the two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incense Cedar: Why Not the Pencil Tree?

Wine glasses, fleur de lis, pencils and casket liners?

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Shaggy bark of the Incense Cedar

From recent posts it might be concluded that many trees, including some of the cedars, have quite a few monikers. So why isn’t Pencil tree an alternative for the Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) ? Apparently there is something called a Pencil Tree, but it isn’t a plant that grows in the wild but instead is a slim fake Christmas tree. At least one book (North American Trees, Preston and Braham, 2002) does refer to this species as the Pencil-Cedar, but I didn’t not come across this designation elsewhere.

The Incense Cedar is native to the continent, but is only found in Oregon, California, Nevada, and Baja California. The eastern reach into Nevada may be because this tree, unlike others in the false-cypress family, doesn’t mind drier conditions. It isn’t normally found in a stand of the same species, but usually is the local specimen amongst others. Although its native habitat is limited, apparently it can be grown through much of the United States and is used as an ornamental.

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Leaves looking a bit like long-stemmed wine glasses.

Descriptions of the conifer’s leaves and cones are the most poetic I’ve yet encountered. The leaves are described as resembling long-stemmed wine glasses The opened seed cones are likened to both duck bills and the fleur-de-lis. The bark, cinnamon-colored, holds interest, too, and resembles that of the Paperbark Maple but in larger shreds. For a look at some older trees around the Portland, OR area, check out this blog: http://amycampion.com/incense-cedar-not-just-another-evergreen-tree. There is also a photo of the opened cone.

The largest example of this tree is known as the Devil’s Canyon Colossus and grows in California. Other large trees can be found in Oregon. Conifers.org says there is rumor of a tree that is over 930 years old, but without supporting evidence

Like most other conifers, this one had many uses for Native Americans, most similar to those of other evergreens. Breathing the steam from the leaves was used for upper respiratory ailments and a tea from the leaves could be brewed for stomach upsets. Baskets and brooms were made from the bark and boughs. Some Californian Native Americans may also have used the leaves as a flavoring agent. 

In the 1860s  and 70s the species’ lumber was used extensively for goldmine flumes. Current uses include closet liners, shingles, garden benches, boardwalks. On a macabre note, the wood has also been used to line both caskets and graves. The principle current use of the lumber, though, seems to be pencils.

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Pencils.com, a blog devoted to pencils, identifies Incense Cedar as the best wood for creating pencils. Other writers concur, but this wasn’t always the case. Pencils were first mass produced in Germany in 1662 and the first pencils in the New World were made in Massachusetts in1812. The first American factory opened in New York City in 1861. At first these writing implements were made of Eastern Red Cedar, but in the early 1900s, the Incense Cedar was found to have superior wood for their manufacture as it didn’t splinter easily and saw smooth.

There are plenty of odd facts about pencils, including that Napoleon wanted them as much as world domination. At one time bread crumbs were used as erasers. (Scum-X anyone?) Pencils were originally used on space flights but later banned. Many other sites include tidbits and other useless but interesting information about pencils and their history.

Although anti-dumping and other government sanctions have been applied to imported pencils from China, today the US may make fewer than 14%  of the world’s pencils. Incense cedar pencils may still be purchased here, although not all those sold are manufactured in America.

To find the (B114) Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) in the Fort Collins City Park Arboretum, you could park across from the second house from the NW corner of Oak and Jackson and walk directly into the park. The tree is located along City Park Drive, not far from the Giant Sequoia. There is a doggie bag station directly under the tree. To find the tag, walk into the branches. It is fun to see the tangled pattern they create when you look upwards as well. 

This particular specimen was planted in 1996 when its diameter was 3.5″.

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Incense Cedar with the doggie bag station visible under and behind it.