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Monty Shade Tree Group Is Replacing Dead Ash Trees

By Annabelle Wang | March 31, 2022

Walk along the streets in Montgomery and you’ll likely see them almost immediately: mostly leafless, with small branches sticking straight up towards the sky, fungal growth, and dark, easily snapped bark — they stand like prickly ghosts along the sidewalks. But they’re not ghosts. They’re ash trees.

A dead ash tree on Matthews Farm Road in Montgomery.

Emerald Ash Borers, an invasive insect species that looks like a tiny, shiny green beetle, are expected to kills all ash trees across the nation. In Montgomery, the ash tree is a predominate species. The landscape will be changed forever.

That’s why Montgomery’s Shade Tree Committee are busy planting new species of trees. Expect to hear the buzz of the chain saws, as the dead ash trees are replaced with red maples, sweetgums, tupelos, hackberries, yellowwoods, London planes, and potentially bald cypresses and river birches along Montgomery streets.

According to Larry Koplik, chairman of the Shade Tree Committee, streets like Cedar Lane, Dehart Drive, and Elm Drive are identifiable as ash tree monocultures. Working with tree nurseries and landscapers, the committee reinforces these streets with new plantings to minimize property damage and build resilient communities of diverse species. More than just a buzzword, biodiversity is nature’s way of preparing for the uncontrollable.

A biodiverse community can “resist the spread of pathogens by limiting hosts for diseases and attract birds and other beneficial species,” said Mr. Stuart. Koplik also added that a variety of tree ages is crucial to making sure a single storm, disease, or uncontrollable event doesn’t clear out an entire forest.

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Koplik stressed that perhaps the most important takeaway from the ash tree dilemma is the need to commit to replacing trees. “Failure is inevitable; it’s just part of gardening. You can carefully plant trees and they’re still not all going to live.” However, rather than simply watch trees die, he encouraged “eternal vigilance” and a proactive willingness to plant new trees.

While daily maintenance isn’t necessary, walking away from a tree is rarely a good idea. For the shade, oxygen, communities, and memories they give us, it is simple reciprocity to look after the beings that look after us. It is unclear how the EAB first arrived in America. Some speculate it was onboard cargo ships transporting ash wood. Regardless, they were first spotted in Michigan in 2002 and have since spread across the country, being first discovered in Somerset County in 2014.

EABs tunnel through ashes’ living tissue, or cambium, which lies just beneath their outer bark, for food and to lay eggs. Their larvae also eat through the tissue as they grow and tunnel back out of the tree trunk. With severed transport systems for their water and nutrients, most affected trees eventually die. Nationwide, we have lost millions of ashes to EABs, forcing residents and township officials to confront the problem.

Mr. Stuart, the environmental science teacher at MHS, explained that “dead trees can house harmful fungal or insect species that can spread to damage healthy trees in the area.” Additionally, “termites and other wood-boring insects can move from infected trees to surrounding homes, weakening wood-based structures and causing a host of other problems.” Most significantly, dead trees pose a risk to property and transportation. Weakened from the inside out, they give way more easily to storms and wind, potentially falling on electrical lines, roads, and buildings.


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