Cut Down a Tree
I have been accused of being a tree hugger. I tied a large cardboard sign around my ash tree this summer so the tree trimmers sent out by the utility company knew I wanted it trimmed NOT cut down. My neighbor asked if I was going to camp out all week to make sure they got it right.
Today I learned that the emerald ash borer is officially in Iowa. This beautiful, but destructive beetle has been slowly munching its way west from Wisconsin and Illinois toward our Iowa ash trees. It is believed that this little critter came from another continent through shipping goods to the U.S. That means that all ash trees are potential food and medium to spread the disease. I have been judgmental about cities that already cut down their ash trees in anticipation of this infestation. Now I understand the potential to ‘carry’ the pest farther west when we have host trees. So what do I do now?
When we moved to our current residence 20 years ago, it was full of elm trees succumbing to the Dutch elm disease. In a short 18 months our lot was nearly bare and we scrambled to plant something, anything to grow some new shade and soil-holding vegetation. We planted a diverse array of deciduous shrubs and trees and evergreens to fill the void. 20 years later, some of our evergreens are in decline from a fungus, the shrubs are nearing the end of their life span, and now the ash borer and oak wilt have been spotted within striking distance.
I want to be a good steward of my trees and small plot of land so I attended a woodland management field day at Prairiewoods sponsored by the Iowa DNR and County Conservation departments. I learned that sometimes you have to cut down a tree or two to give space for the hardier species to thrive. A healthy woodland consists of a diversity of trees with the right conditions to be resistant to pests and disease. That means invasive species, or opportunistic as I like to call them, need control as well. There are many plants like garlic mustard that were brought from other lands for other purposes, that now seriously impact the health of our ecosystems. In the next year I will be surveying my woods, identifying the trees I want to nurture and which ones will have to ‘go’. I learned how to kill a tree to save another tree(s). And, that doing nothing is doing something - and doing nothing will not likely make my ‘forest’ healthier. Now I get to ponder my role as a co-creator with nature in my ‘forest’.
I am enjoying the shady ash, stately oaks and beautiful maple trees I have. I am grateful we made the choice to plant them 20 years ago. I am also feeling lucky that we still enjoy a couple of sentinel elms that survived the disease decades ago. I am grateful for foresters who understand the woodland eco system and can help educate a tree hugger like me to be active in facilitating the health of my favorite outdoor spaces.
What is YOUR role in your backyard? Are you co-creating with nature or letting the consequences of our actions affect nature?