When a Tree Dies, Do You Feel It?

A tree that has been treated for emerald ash borerThe emerald ash borer is threatening ash trees in New England. Seek help from your state extension service if yours are at risk. Image: Neza S.G.

Have you ever lost a tree that was like a dear friend? Then prepare for heartbreak. We’re going to lose many dear friends to the emerald ash borer.

If you’ve ever lost a favorite tree, you know that the emotional blow can rank right up there with any tough loss. Maybe not every tree in the yard tugs at our hearts. Some have that just-so shape and character — the way they shelter the swing set or add a bit of majesty to the front of the house — that makes them more than just big plants.

They become members of the family.

I vividly remember waking up one Saturday morning in Des Moines after a particularly stormy night had passed. My wife had suddenly cried out from the kitchen, “Oh no!”

I sprang up to find the severe storm had felled our prize linden tree in the back yard. The winds had been so strong they’d snapped the two-foot-thick trunk, and the big tree lay in a sad, shaggy, disheveled heap.

Just like that, gone was our wonderful shade, our privacy, our greenery. Our friend. The back yard looked exposed and barren.

With our two-year-old son in our arms, we all cried.

The property was never quite the same. A year later, we sold the place, and moved on.

Those sad memories returned when I read the emerald ash borer had crossed over New York’s Hudson River and was moving closer to New England.

This destructive borer beetle has killed millions of ash trees in northern-tier states over the past decade, and no one quite knows how to stop it. And now many — if not all — ash trees in New England are doomed, too.

Some chemical treatments are being developed that require professional application at a cost of $40-$200 per tree. But the results are unsure — and you’ll have to treat your trees every year.

If your trees are at risk, you’re best bet is to seek help from your state extension service. They’ll know what your options are. 

For those of you with these beautiful, deciduous hardwood trees, I hope a cure is coming. If not, I’ll be feeling your pain.

This danger to so many ash trees has us reminiscing about our favorite trees. Do you have any tree tales to share?