Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ash Trees, Hopefully Frozen in Time

The US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has announced that will it use what it calls cryopreservation methods to store frozen budwood from the imperiled ash trees of North America.

Ash trees (Fraxinus) have long been prized as sources of remarkably hard wood. They were historically used as the main source of wood in American baseball bats, for example. And the lovely leaves provided both fantastic fall color and summer shade in both managed landscapes and forested wilderness areas.

But the accidentally introduced emerald ash borer beetle has devastated this once common tree species. Here in Maryland, the problem has been particularly bad in Prince Georges County, where most of the ash trees have had to come down to control the damage and further spread of the beetle. Municipal foresters and arborists say there is not any point in using the trees at all any more in either residential or commercial plantings, because they are simply too vulnerable to the pest. Campers may have also noticed that everywhere in the state there are restrictions on moving firewood; in an effort to control the beetle's spread parks are asking visitors to use only wood that is provided on site. But the beetles continue to show up and damage the ash trees.

Researchers who are working on the preservation methods hope that one day they will be able to thaw the stored buds and use them in propagation research.

(By the way, that is NOT an ash tree in the picture... )

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