A Rare Tree Adventure

By Emerald Ash Borer Coordinator Meredith Bean

It was August 27, very late in the season to be treating ash for protection against the emerald ash borer (EAB), and we were about to do just that. With the state’s most active “Big Tree hunter” as our guide through the swamps of Cypress Bridge Natural Area Preserve, we hopped into canoes to find the largest Carolina ash trees on record in Virginia. Along the way, we drifted through lily pad patches and marveled at the resilience of swamp trees as they survive in feet of water year-round.

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Lara Johnson (urban and community forestry program manager) and Byron Carmean (champion tree hunter) canoeing among the water tupelos and cypresses.

With a little searching, we finally found the two champion Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana) trees and immediately started measuring and treating. They must have been thirsty because they took the insecticide right up! Each tree may not be larger than 20 inches in diameter nor look nearly as remarkable as their neighbors, but they are just as critically endangered as the giant cypresses surrounding them.

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Meredith Bean (emerald ash borer coordinator) and Meghan Mulroy (community forester) treating the #1 state champion Carolina ash with emamectin benzoate via microinjection.
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Lara Johnson and Byron Carmean with the champion Carolina ash post-treatment.

While emerald ash borer has not yet been confirmed in Southampton county, proactively treating specimen ash trees is the best method to ensure their survival for the inevitable day they are attacked. To find out more about this destructive pest and VDOF’s EAB program, please see our StoryMaps.

Many thanks to the Department of Conservation and Recreation Natural Heritage Program for preserving this ecosystem and allowing us to treat the Carolina ash, and to Byron Carmean for the awe-inspiring tour!

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Byron Carmean standing in the hollow trunk of a healthy cypress.
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Knees of a giant cypress that are taller than Lara Johnson on dry land!

More Information

Big Tree Registry

DCR Natural Heritage – Cypress Bridge

VDOF Emerald Ash Borer StoryMaps

Carolina Ash Characteristics

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