Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Today I Learned (TIL)

Texas ash
Texas ash (Fraxinus texensis)

Today I learned that moving firewood kills trees. When people transport firewood from their backyard to, say, a campsite three hours away, they introduce forest pests and diseases from one ecosystem to another. Here's one horrific example of how devastating this seemingly innocuous act can be.

Minnette Marr, Plant Conservationist at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, says that the Emerald Ash Borer has already wiped out tens of millions of the 8 billion ash trees in the U.S. This lethal pest was first identified in 2002 near Detroit, MI. It likely entered the U.S. in wooden packing crates from Asia, where it is indigenous. The Emerald Ash Borer has already spread to 12 states, and firewood has been implicated in dozens of infestations found in or near campgrounds, including the first infestations in Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia.

As ash trees die, the ecosystems they support are disturbed or destroyed, affecting understory trees, shrubs and wildlife, and providing invasive species the opportunity to invade. The Emerald Ash Borer has not yet reached Texas, but is expected to enter the state within the next decade. When it arrives, our native Texas ash is likely to fully succumb to the pest. Because the Emerald Ash Borer has defied all efforts to eradicate or control it so far, the National Ash Seed Collection Initiative was created in 2005 to collect and preserve ash seed for the purpose of replanting trees once a solution to the Emerald Ash Borer can be found. The Seed Bank at the LBJ Wildflower Center is participating in this project and in the Millennium Seed Bank Project as well.

For more information about the campaign to stop Americans from moving firewood from site to site, visit dontmovefirewood.org. For more information on the National Ash Seed Collection Initiative, visit ashseed.org. And for more information on the Wildflower Center's conservation efforts, visit their Seed Bank page and their Plant Conservation page.

(Today I Learned features a nugget of information I learned during training to become a Travis County Master Gardener.)

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. That is interesting. And, now, I've learned this, too.
    We give little thought to pests being transported through firewood, or crates or whatever we carry from one part of the world to another.
    Thanks for the lesson.
    Stay safe...

  2. I didn't know that- it makes total sense but I would have never thought about that. See we are learning along with you! =)
    Glad you are enjoying your training! And thanks for sharing the info!

  3. This is interesting! You aren't going to give us a test are you? :)

  4. Darla, I promise, it'll be an open book test! ;)