A death in the family

Nearly 20 years ago when Joan and I bought our present home we had six magnificent Scots pine trees on the south end of the property. The had been planted in the ’60s and were fully mature. One of them was so large at the base that it would require three big men with long arms to encircle it.

And then in 2000, at the beginning of the new millennium, a deadly disease, Pine Wilt, began to kill our pines and thousands of other throughout Nebraska. The following is a brief explanation from Backyard Farmer. By the way, BF is produced by the University of Nebraska and it is the longest running TV lawn and garden program in America.

Thus:

Scots pine, a non-native pine that has been widely used in Nebraska windbreak plantings, is facing a serious, new threat called Pine Wilt, which is caused by the pine wood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. This nematode is unusual, compared to other plant-parasitic nematodes, because it lives entirely in the above ground parts of the tree and never enters the soil.

The pine wood nematode is a microscopic, worm-like animal that feeds on the living plant cells surrounding the water-conducting tissues of pine trees. Once inside a susceptible pine tree the nematodes reproduce rapidly, and move throughout the tree.

As they destroy the water-conducting tissues the tree’s water-moving system becomes clogged and resin flow slows, then stops. The tree then begins to display wilt symptoms and soon dies. This wilt typically kills Scots pine within a few weeks to a few months.

By last summer, we were down to two of these magnificent trees. As spring sprung in 2015 both of the remaining trees, including the giant, were showing the obvious signs of incurable Pine Wilt. Here is what a tree suffering from Pine Wilt looks like:

 

 

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So, late this week the tree guys with their huge crane came out and did their grisly work. The following photo of the stump grind material, that Joan will spread to beef up pathways in her garden, is all that is left of the giant:

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I suppose that I can be accused of hyperbole, but the loss of the last of these wonderful trees–particularly the giant–was like a death in the family. Maybe it is true that I like trees more than people, but that is a topic for another day. For now, I need time to mourn.

RGK

 

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