Look up for the new hazard in the landscape – falling ash trees. Once a popular commercial timber tree used for flooring, furniture, cabinetry and favored for baseball bats, ash trees were also a common species for street and park plantings. They are beautiful trees. But as they decline, due to the Emerald Ash Borer, they pose a real threat.
Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a small, green, rice grain sized invasive wood boring beetle. It is native to East Asia and was first found in Michigan in 2002 after arriving in shipping crates. Now, in 2023, EAB has devasted forests leaving millions of dead and dying trees in its wake throughout the Northeast and Midwest.
Adults feed on the leaves then penetrate the bark to lay their eggs. Larval grubs tunnel through the cambium layer, feeding on the living tissue and compromising the trees ability to transport nutrients. This, in addition to the holes left by the exiting adults, contributes to drying of the structural wood of the trees causing them to become brittle and prone to cracking.
Internal damage can be hidden. Infested trees that are still leafy and green on some branches belie the damage under the bark. Once the trees are dead, fungi move in to finish the job, further weakening the still standing tree. Limbs can fall in a slight breeze, during a rain storm or on a sunny calm day. For safety reasons, arborists advise removing the trees before they are totally dead.
These “widow makers” are on country roads, in urban parks, on neighborhood streets and in backyards. Get to know the signs of dead and dying ash trees. Look for thinning in the canopy. There may be a lot of sprouting around the roots and trunk. Search for woodpecker damage or fungal growth.
A radio station in New Jersey broadcasts “ash tree hazard” levels on windy days. Think about alternate routes when driving in stormy weather if you are aware of a row of dead ashes along the road. Take stock of your favorite hiking trails and proceed with caution. Think twice about parking under an ash tree. Dead or dying trees can be allowed to fall in a woodlot. “Snags” provide important habitat for many birds and animals. But make plans for professional removal if you have any ash trees in close proximity to buildings.
Babe Ruth got into the Hall of Fame by swinging an ash bat. There are websites devoted to “death by ash tree”. Try to avoid inclusion in that hall of fame.

Stand of dead ash.
Emerald Ash Borer damage
Dead giveaway
Thinning in the canopy
Dying ash tree