Last chance until 2026 to ensure future of black ash trees

Black ash trees only produce seeds every seven years and 2019 is the year. Now, The Canadian Forest Service National Tree Seed Centre is hoping Canadians will help find some seeds.

The seed centre has two main purposes: to provide seed from all tree species in Canada for research and conserve seeds in case disease or pests such as the emerald ash borer destroy the tree population, said seed centre co-ordinator Donnie McPhee.

The plan is to conserve black ash seeds, "until such a time that we can either out-plant again or with new technologies that we can inoculate our seed against the particular pest problem," McPhee said.

The emerald ash borer has not yet been spotted on the Island, but was found in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in 2018. It is one of the main reasons the seed centre is asking people to preserve the four-centimetre seeds that are enclosed in a flat green wing.

"Right now emerald ash borer isn't on Prince Edward Island, but two years ago Quebec City was the closest place to the Maritimes and now there are two locations in New Brunswick and one in Nova Scotia," McPhee said.

Angela Bosse/CBC

Black ash is a slender tree with grey bark and multiple leaflets that turn yellow in the fall and the emerald ash borer has taken a toll on these trees in some parts of Canada.

McPhee said given seeding happens so infrequently, if the bug took a trip to the Island it could have a major negative impact.

However, McPhee said it is not quite time to collect seeds yet.

"Things aren't ripe yet and if you collect them too early the seed isn't any good, but coming up soon black ash seeds should be ready by mid-September."

David Cappaert/Michigan State University

White, green and black ash trees are native to P.E.I., but McPhee said the focus is on black ash because it seeds less frequently.

If people see seed on wild ash trees growing on P.E.I. they can contact the seed centre and someone will assist them with collection, McPhee said.

"We need about 2,000 to 3,000 seed per tree," McPhee said.

Angela Bosse/CBC

The seed centre is collaborating with the province to assist in gathering seeds. 

McPhee said his team is small, with only three people covering the entire country.

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