by Carl Strang

The emerald ash borer has become a common tree-killer in northeast Illinois. I knew it was likely that, sooner or later, the green ash in my front yard would become infested, and now it has happened. My tree held out longer than most of the ashes in my subdivision, but it was on the decline before the borers came along, and now the symptoms are clear.

The top branches are dying, and the tree is responding by producing a dense growth of lower shoots (only a small part of that bunch of green is the tree’s Virginia creeper vine). This is a typical pattern, as the beetles lay eggs in the top of the tree first.

I haven’t yet seen the diagnostic D-shaped exit holes made by emerging adults of these bark beetles, but one of the lower dying branches had several woodpecker holes which are a further clue.

There were a number of holes just like this one, made by a woodpecker extracting a larva.

So, sometime within the next few months I’ll have to have the ash removed, and I am contemplating what kind of tree to put in its place.



  1. jomegat said,

    June 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    American Chestnut? 😉

    • natureinquiries said,

      June 19, 2012 at 5:45 am

      Good one! Or American elm. The situation is similar to the latter, as the developers essentially lined the streets with green ashes. I am proposing either Hill’s oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) or Kentucky coffee tree.

  2. Linda Padera said,

    June 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm


    Sorry to hear of the impending demise of your ash. We were quite upset a few years ago when our American Elm suddenly displayed symptoms of Dutch Elm Disease and wilted within a period of less than two weeks.

    Linda Padera

    • natureinquiries said,

      June 19, 2012 at 5:47 am

      Looking back at old photos of elm-lined streets, I can see why they planted them that way. They created beautifully shaped arches with pointed tops where the trees on the two sides came together. Sadly the lesson was not respected when they built my neighborhood.

  3. Mark Hartzer said,

    June 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Sorry about the impending end of your green ash. I replaced one of mine with a bur oak on the street here in Naperville about 10 years ago and it looks great. They grow much faster than one would think if they get plenty of light.

  4. September 21, 2012 at 5:58 am

    […] As I shared last spring, the green ash in my front yard had become infested with emerald ash borers. There was no saving it, so sadly I had to let it go. As I considered replacement possibilities, my thoughts turned to Hill’s oak. I love oaks most of all among tree groups, and Hill’s oak is a species I have seen doing well in the clay soil of the savanna ridge at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Spring Bluff Nursery had the species, which they call by its other name of northern pin oak (though recent taxonomic work makes clear that northern scarlet oak would be a more accurate name), and for an extra fee they were willing to go beyond their usual delivery boundary and plant it for me. That was one cause for celebration. […]

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