Educating the public about tree planting, care, site selection and pests were the main focus of Saturday’s Arbor Day Celebration at Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve.
The hot topic: the Emerald Ash Borer or EAB.
“It is out of control at this point. It is very devastating,” said Chuck Myers, assistant superintendent of Natural Resource Operations with the Lake County Forest Preserve.
EAB is a pest infesting up to 40 percent of the Ash trees in Lake County. The worm-like insect tunnels under the bark of the trees, laying its eggs. The tunneling cuts off nutrients and water to the trees, causing branches to fall, and ultimately killing the tree.
“The trees become very brittle.” Myers says.
EAB is hardly noticeable in its early stages. By looking closely at the bark you may notice small holes. Another way to know if your Ash trees are infected is if you notice woodpeckers nearby. These birds feast off the larva that EAB leave behind.
Tim Schirber of Gurnee has already had to get rid of two Ash trees on his property due to EAB. “We’re replacing them with Evergreens. They were the only two Ash trees we had, and they were both infected.”
“From the time you can actually see it on your trees, it’s been there for three to five years and that tree is already heavily infested,” Myers said.
At that point there are few options to treat EAB and save the tree. Myers suggests if the infected tree is small, to start over with a new non-Ash variety. To treat an older tree chemicals must be applied yearly. Myers also recommends employing an arborist.
Debbie Brownstein of Gurnee says she has had the Ash trees on her property checked. “We’re watching them closely, but I’m sure at some point three of them will have to be cut down.”
Browstein attended the Arbor Day Celebration to learn about other trees she can plant on her property. She won one of 60 trees raffled off at the event thanks to a USDA Forest Service Grant.
The $200,000 grant is for new trees to be planted in the forest preserve over the next two years. This spring LCFPD will plant about 400 trees, another 1,300 will go in in the fall. Myers says this is a way to replace those destroyed by EAB.
To date the LCFPD is only removing infected Ash trees that may cause a public safety concern - those that are falling or that have broke, falling branches. Trees in certain areas are being treated until newer trees are large enough to provide shaded area.
Alternatives to Ash trees include Hackberry, Hickory, Kentucky Coffee, Baldcypress and Oak varieties. To find out more about the Emerald Ash Borer or what other trees to plant in your area, contact the Forest Preserve at 847-489-6148.
LCFPD is also hosting a native plant sale next weekend at in Libertyville. Plants, shrubs, trees and vines will be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information on prices check out http://www.LCFPD.org/plantsale.