Ash lumber is from six major tree species. White ash (Fraxinus americana) is the preferred species today for many uses, as it is stronger and stiffer than the other species. However, green ash (F. pennsylvanica), black ash (F. nigra), pumpkin ash (F. profunda), and blue ash (F. quadrangulata) lumber can be found on the East Coast. It would be sold as ash lumber without specific species designations. In the West, Oregon ash (F. latifolia) is available.
All ash, and especially white ash, is strong and shock resistant. Ash is used for baseball and cricket bats and tool handles. Ash furniture and flooring are popular. Ash is one of my favorite woods.
Unfortunately, there is a serious problem with ash trees in the Midwest. The emerald ash borer, EAB, is an exotic beetle that was discovered in southeastern Michigan near Detroit in the summer of 2002. The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. However, the larvae (the immature stage) feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients.
Emerald ash borer probably arrived in the United States in the mid-1900s on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia. Emerald ash borer is also established in Windsor, Ontario, was found in Ohio, northern Indiana, northern Illinois, Maryland, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Since its discovery, EAB has killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with tens of millions more lost in Ohio and Indiana. Most of the devastation is in southeastern Michigan.
As a result, regulatory agencies and the USDA are enforcing quarantines (Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) and fines to prevent potentially infested ash trees, logs or hardwood firewood from moving out of areas where EAB occurs. There is no problem with air-dried or kiln-dried lumber. Unless this is controlled, it is likely that there will be little ash lumber in the future.
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