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Replacement trees for ash woodlands with emerald ash borer

Quick facts

  • All ash trees are susceptible to emerald ash borer (EAB).

  • The most common ash species in Minnesota are black ash (Fraxinus nigra), white ash (Fraxinus americana) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica).

  • Choosing the right replacement tree species depends on the surrounding plant community.

  • Disease-resistant elms are commonly-recommended to replace ash.

Plant a variety of trees to avoid emerald ash borer attack

Dense, green woods
Black ash woodland in a wet forest

All Minnesota counties have at least one variety of ash, and ash is found on 4.3 million acres in the state.

The large number of ash trees in Minnesota make the state susceptible to EAB . There are many different tree species that landowners can plant to replace ash.

Trees that are suited to the plant community and site characteristics should grow well in the same location where ash is growing.

Know your plant community to select the right species

The potential of a woodland to provide timber, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities depends on its plant community.

A native plant community is a group of plants that interact with each other and their environment and have not been greatly altered by human activity or introduced species.

It is important for landowners to recognize Minnesota’s native plant communities when selecting replacement trees for ash.

Ash trees can be found in five native plant communities in Minnesota. These communities are ranked from driest to wettest, based on soil moisture:

  1. Fire-dependent forests

  2. Mesic hardwood forests

  3. Floodplain forests

  4. Wet forests

  5. Peatlands

Ash is very common in floodplains and wet forests. Ash is found less often in mesic hardwoods, peatlands and fire-dependent forests.

Replacement trees for each native plant community

Replacement trees for ash can be identified by studying the native plant community of the specific woodland.

For each native plant community, there are two categories of recommended tree species:

  • Expert-recommended trees with proven performance in research trials.

  • Expert-recommended trees, but not examined in research trials.

Minnesota faced problems with Dutch elm disease in the 1970’s. But, disease-resistant elm trees are a commonly-recommended replacement for ash. Before the Dutch elm disease outbreak in Minnesota, elm and ash trees were found in very similar growing conditions.

Your goals for your land and specific site conditions should be considered when selecting a replacement for ash. Foresters and other natural resource professionals can provide woodland management advice and should be consulted to make appropriate planting and land management decisions.

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Matthew Russell, Extension forestry specialist

Reviewed in 2019

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