Race to save ash tree

2009-10-08 19:13

Des Moines - Scientists are racing to save tens of millions of seeds from the native ash tree before an invasive beetle pushes the species to extinction.

Ash trees decorate urban landscapes across North America and provide $25bn worth of timber, yet the emerald ash borer is slowly devastating the species. It has already killed millions of ash trees in 13 states.

Iowa State University professor Mark Widrlechner is leading efforts to collect seeds that can be frozen and ready to plant when researchers figure out how to kill or control the insect.

The process is tedious. Seeds must be hand-picked from branches only in the fall. But scientists hope to avoid what happened to the American elm, chestnut and butternut trees, which were nearly wiped out by disease.

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