We got a letter from the City of Hamilton in November letting us know that the tree had to come down. The emerald ash borer, a little beetle native to eastern Asia, has been destroying millions of ash trees across North America and poses a huge threat to ash forests in Hamilton. The City has been addressing the threat by monitoring Hamilton's ash trees (approximately 23,000), and destroying trees that show signs of damage from the ash borer. In addition, 800 "high value" ash trees are being treated with pesticide injections. It's the ash borer larvae that cause the problem: they chomp through the vital layer beneath the tree's bark. Within two years of initial signs of damage to the ash tree, it will be completely dead.
If you drive around the neighbourhoods of east Hamilton, you'll notice that several trees have a white stripe painted on their trunks. These are all ash trees marked for destruction. It's so sad, but it's a measure that will hopefully prevent more ash trees from reaching the same fate.
- a beautiful veil: I love my house, but I've never been a fan of its boxy exterior. The ash tree provided a graceful cover of leaves and branches to blanket and soften the angular edges of our house's second story.
- shade: The tree helped keep our house cool during hot summer days, and Dan and I always enjoyed sitting in its shade on the front steps with a morning cup of coffee.
- a sanctuary: Many birds and squirrels made their nests in the ash tree. With the crown of the tree right outside our bedroom window, we would wake up to see birds and squirrels scurrying and flitting through the branches.
- entertainment: Our cat, Gus, was always very entertained by the birds and squirrels in the ash tree, and because Gus is hilarious, we were always entertained watching him watch the wildlife. With wide eyes, Gus kind of bark-chirped at the tree and wagged his tail like mad: truly a sight to behold.
- art: One of my absolute favourite things ever on earth was to fall asleep or wake up seeing our ash tree's branches laden with freshly fallen snow.
Alas, all is not lost. In the letter announcing the impending demise of our tree, the City promised a new tree to take the place of our beloved ash. And we may choose which kind we'd like from a selection of species. We'll probably go with a Japanese katsura, mostly because it has beautiful colour in the fall.
This week, we witnessed the initial preparations for the new arboreal addition to our home. The ash's stump was removed and ground down, and the place where the tree once stood was levelled out. In the spring (I assume), the City will plant the new tree and re-sod the lawn.
I've also been made more conscious of the life cycle of trees. Our neighbourhood was established in the first half of the twentieth century, so most of the trees that surround us are mature. In the last five years, several of these beautiful old trees have had to come down for various reasons. New trees have been planted, and in another 40 years, these meagre plants will be majestic givers of shade, accommodation, oxygen, and beauty. And I'm looking forward to seeing the katsura grow through its life cycle in front of my home.