These days, with all the talk about “walls or no walls,” one certain immigrant has joined our U.S. ranks that we really don’t want. He’s a bad dude. Even though he carries no guns, drugs or explosives, he’s still wreaking havoc over much of the U.S. And, by the way, he’s neither white nor black — he’s green. This guy seems innocent enough on the surface: As an adult he’s harmless, he moves at a snail’s pace and is a strict vegetarian. His name is Agrilus planipennis. Let’s just call him a low-down “pain in the ash.”
Yup, it’s taken him a few years to trek from Michigan to Vermont but he’s finally here beginning to kill all our beautiful ash trees. If he’d stayed put in his native northeastern Asia, there would be no problem. There he really did no harm, but once he got off the boat here in North America, he hopped to the nearest ash and there, the Emerald Ash Borer, old Agrilus planipennis, began his wild “ashus orgy.”
Ash have always been among my very favorite trees. With their directly opposing branches and oval-shaped, compound leaves, they stand out as unique among all other deciduous trees. And, although they are sublime specimens in the living, those that I have cut for firewood are so much fun to split ... stove-length chunks of ash pop open easily with straight-grained precision — truly enjoyable when compared to maple, birch or beech, which often splits as ornery as a jackass leads. In fact, one time when I was “felling” a large ash tree, the entire 40-foot length suddenly split into two precise halves almost like it had been run through a board saw. Just like that, I had two 40-person park benches instead of a pile of saw logs.
Rambling on more about merits of the ash tree seems almost moot, though. You see, they’re all going to die soon. Our forest professionals assure us that white ash, Fraxinus americana, the tree that has always populated our forests so proudly, is going away. In fact, this old writer just witnessed the second full 18-wheeler load of ash logs creeping past on our frozen farm road. Yes, we have a professional logger, overseen by our consultant forester, cutting all our ash trees that are big enough to market. They will go away to eventually become kitchen cabinets, flooring, small boats, even professional baseball bats.
Ash, in those forms, is world-class handsome and practical. Maybe folks desiring these products should hurry up and place their orders because soon, buying an ash-made product will be as difficult as splitting a maple into two equal halves or buying a pet Brontosaurus.
Burr Morse lives in East Montpelier.