SWCD director discusses trees no longer sold

By BJ Price - PSWCD

As your author was packing up and putting away supplies from yet another tree sale, he came across some extra tags for the tree species we sell. Some of the tags I stashed away for use in a future sale, while other labels made their way to File 13, also known as the trash can. While I hate the thought of throwing things away, (ask my wife), I realize that some of these tags will never have a good reason to be used again. A few of the tags bound for the landfill represented species that were marginal for this area, and several more tags were for species that have succumbed to disease in recent years.

English Ivy was one of the first labels to hit the trash. While it does have some redeeming features such as the fact that it thrives almost anywhere and you can’t hardly kill it, some of its less-than-ideal features are that it thrives almost anywhere and you can’t hardly kill it. In other words, it is invasive. Kept under control in a garden or near the house, it would be acceptable, but in a woods, it can literally take over a small tree and starve it for sunlight, not to mention the fact that it smothers other vegetation on the ground level.

White Ash disappeared from our tree sale close to two decades ago, thanks to the Emerald Ash Borer. A few survivor trees do still exist, as well as some smaller Ash trees and some new seedlings, but the majority of our Ash population has been decimated, and planting small trees would be an exercise in futility. Some folks are still holding on to hope for the Ash species, anticipating a comeback once the Ash Borer has done its dirty work. However, one should keep in mind other species such as Elm and Chestnut that have succumbed to disease in the past century, knowing that neither one of them has seen a revival to bring them anywhere close to their former glory.

Long ago and far away, our district sold Silver Maple. There might be a good place to plant Silver Maple, but I don’t know where it would be. If you are trying to picture a one of these, think of the maple trees that break apart and go to pieces in ice storms. That’s probably Silver Maple. Also, it has a bad habit of wanting to fork out with several co-dominant leaders, or main trunks. Then, when push comes to shove, these trunks will split apart and you have a maple mess on your hands. Some of the remaining tree trunk may die and hollow out, leaving you with an even weaker tree. Silver Maple might be considered one of the ‘rock stars’ of the tree world, in the fact that it will live fast and die young. You get some of the fastest growth of any hardwood, but the tradeoff is a tree with a weak structure. Yet another useless feature of these trees is the fact that their roots tend to clog up sewer and drainage pipes.

For many years, Colorado Blue Spruce was the go-to evergreen. With its even, symmetrical habit and attractive bluish needles, it made for a nice specimen tree in yards or the perfect addition to any windbreak. Then along comes a fungus known as Rhizosphaera (say: rize-oh-SPHERE-uh) needle cast. In the words of North Dakota State University, classic symptoms of needle cast include brownish purple discoloration and eventual death of older needles, while current-year needles show no symptoms. Lower branches tend to be affected first, with the fungus moving up the trunk until the entire tree is affected. Trees infected with this fungus take on a ragged appearance and just generally look pathetic.

Rounding out the list of species never to be sold here again is Austrian pine. It has a rougher, coarser appearance than some other evergreens, but it is very adaptable and will tolerate heavy clay soils that other species would not. It was often included in windbreak plantings. According to the Ohio Division of Forestry, it succumbs to Diplodia tip blight, where the affected branch tips die and the disease progresses to surrounding branches each year, creating dead sectors with persistent brown needles. This disease will slowly kill the tree over several years.

So, what’s the good news in all of this? The reality is, there are hundreds of other tree species that will grow and thrive here in our part of the world. Will other pests or diseases come around that will wipe out another species? More than likely. Look at it this way: Did you set your alarm to wake up this morning? If so, then you expected to wake up and live for another day. Plant some trees. Some of them will stand a good chance of making it to maturity.

The Preble Soil and Water Conservation is always available to answer your tree-related questions, in addition to drainage, erosion, and pond questions you may have. Some questions can be answered over the phone, and other times a site visit may be needed to see firsthand what is going on and make some recommendations on what can be done. You can reach the Preble Soil and Water Conservation District by phone at 937-456-5159, or visit our website at www.prebleswcd.org.

By BJ Price