From ashes to oaks

Dealing with the loss of ash trees to the emerald ash borer (EAB) can be disheartening, and the idea of replanting can seem overwhelming. But Tom Zagar, Muskego City Forester, saw a chance to try something new.

Tom manages a younger-growth woodland that had lost significant canopy due to EAB. After mowing down the invasive shrubs that blanketed parts of the woodland, “I recognized these areas as a prime opportunity to try to reestablish oak trees,” said Tom. “I especially wanted to plant white oak of local genotype.”

Early last spring, Tom and his team sprang into action. They collected loads of white oak acorns, most of which had pushed a root into the ground, with a gentle tug and a small shovel. They planted them in the cleared areas and protected them with tree tubes. Later on, when it was necessary to spray the invasive buckthorn shrubs that had re-sprouted, the tree tubes shielded the seedling oaks from herbicide.

“Skeptical at first, I’m now a big believer in tree tubes,” Tom declared. “Back in 2005 I had an eagle scout plant oak seedlings with tree tubes. Most of them flourished and today many of those trees are over 15’ tall with 2” DBH!”

Thanks for sharing your story, Tom! It’s great to learn of your success with this relatively simple and inexpensive method for planting oak trees, especially in an area with the added challenge of invasive shrubs.

We’d love to hear how your community is replanting in the aftermath of the EAB. Please send your story to Patricia Lindquist, Urban Forestry Communications Specialist: patricia.lindquist@wisconsin.gov. We might feature it in our next newsletter!

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