Archived Story

Ash trees may succumb to borer in upcoming years

Published 9:55am Monday, November 19, 2012 Updated 11:56am Monday, November 19, 2012

In the next few years, you may have to cut down dead ash trees that have succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer. They were a good replacement for the elm but now are probably not long for this world.

If you have a large yard and want a fast growing shade tree, go out in the woods and dig up a basswood seedling. They are very difficult to start from seed. Or, you can get one from your local nursery.

If, however, your yard is too small for a tree that eventually gets 50 to 90 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide, there are new cultivars for this — almost care free tree.

There are very few diseases or insects that bother basswoods. If you need pollinators for your plants, a basswood is an excellent pick. They bloom later than most other trees, with a very fragrant cream colored flower that attracts bees and other insects. The fruit is a small nut like ball that hangs on the tree well into the winter providing food for birds and small mammals.

Four relatively small cultivars have been developed for our climate. Frontyard, is described as having a broadly pyramidal shape, good yellow fall color and grows 70 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Boulevard, a selection designed for street trees, is narrower, a columnar shape and is 60 feet tall but only 30 feet wide; boulevard shaped. Fastigiata is shorter, 50 feet tall and 35 feet wide, another narrow tree. Wandell is another pyramidal shaped basswood with symmetrical branching and a strong leader. It, too, is tall, 60 feet and 40 feet wide. There is no size noted for American Sentry. It is described as having an upright branching habit. Sounds as though it too is a pyramid shape. All of these trees are hardy in zone 4 and the author, Lynn Steiner, says they can be tried in zone 3.

Basswood prefer moist, fertile, well-drained soil. In other words, don’t plant them in a hollow that retains water after a storm. They will grow in partial shade but more slowly. Since they are a native, they will also grow in drier, heavier soils.

The native basswood will even grow in zone 2 and is found in the eastern half of the U.S. and well into Canada. All in all a near perfect tree for shade in our difficult climate. The only down side is the seeds. Step on a bunch of them and you will think you have roller skates on. Do sweep them off any hard surface to prevent blue air and a sore backside.


Bev Johnson is a master gardener in Otter Tail County.

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