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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Trees in jeopardy

The city of Northfield recently published a press release confirming that emerald ash

borers have started to infest Northfield ash trees (see This is bad news for

the campus arboretum, as green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) makes up 20-30% of the trees in

the lower Arb. 

Green ash is found in floodplains and moist upland forest (see the Cowling Arboretum

website for more information), making the Lower Arb the perfect habitat. A green ash can

normally survive an initial emerald ash borer infestation, but, after that, the tree almost inevitably

perishes. The beetles feed on the tree’s cambial tissue, which is the growth tissue found

underneath the bark. 

A telltale sign of infestation is the presence of woodpeckers. Woodpeckers enjoy eating

the larvae of emerald ash borers; therefore, multiple woodpecker holes in an ash suggest that the

tree is infested. Another sign of infestation is the presence of cracks in bark, which occur due to

tunneling larvae splitting the bark open.

It is sad to envision the Lower Arb depleted of its most common tree, but all is not

lost: there are already ideas for the ash’s replacement. The swamp white oak and sycamore are

two species that have the potential to replace green ash. Swamp white oaks (Quercus bicolor)

are a good option both because they are native to southeastern Minnesota and because they

can tolerate heavy and wet soil (see Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) also do well

in floodplains and are both easy to propagate and quick to grow (see 

The unfortunate decimation of ash trees serves as a lesson for future reforestation

efforts. Without a diversity of tree species, disease can easily wipe out entire swaths of forest. 

—Ella Daniels-Koch ’25 for the Cole Student Naturalists

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