November 22, 2014

Tree lovers heartbroken to find Iowa’s champion black ash toppled

On this Arbor Day, there’s discouraging news that one of Iowa’s two national champion trees is damaged beyond repair.

A team of tree experts went to a remote area near Pikes Peak State Park in northeast Iowa this week, intending to save the black ash tree and instead, found it broken into pieces. Mark Rouw says he was stunned.

“I was really kind of in disbelief, but there’s no denying it, it was down, it’s gone,” Rouw says. “We’ve lost a national champion in Iowa and we don’t have many of those. Very disappointing.”

Two arborists, a state forester and a tree historian had gone to the isolated ravine near the Mississippi River to save the 114-foot-tall black ash. The plan was to inject it with chemicals to fight off the emerald ash borer.

University of Iowa arborist Andy Dahl says they arrived to find the top blown off and about a 30-foot stump.

“It looked to me like there was some decay possibly from some old storm damage or branch stubs had broken off,” Dahl says. “There was actually a beehive in it and it was quite hollow. I think the wind took it last year, and so is the cycle of life.”

On the plus side, Dahl says they found no evidence of the emerald ash borer. It had been the largest black ash tree in America.

The only national champion tree remaining in Iowa is a massive black alder in Davenport.