Fraxinus americana

White Ash

 

Worthington at Township Square, Stockdale and Ashland Drives off Rt. 272, Lancaster PA (down the hill)

 

Len Eiserer

 

This is perhaps the largest tree in Lancaster County in terms of its trunk circumference, which approaches 400 inches. Old Sycamore in Centerville is 300 inches. The two trees, however, may not be comparable.

 

Based upon photographs, an expert (Scott Wade) has suggested that the ash (species identification not 100%) is an old coppiced tree. Coppicing is a method of sustainable woodland man- agement that exploits the capacity of many species to put out new shoots from their stump if cut down. After 7-20 years, the stems can be harvested for firewood and wood products, and the cycle is then repeated. While broadleafs like ash, chestnut and sycamore respond well to coppicing, evergreens die from this procedure.

 

No reliable method exists for assess- ing the age of coppices. Even invasive methods aren’t suitable because the center of the coppice often deteri- orates as it has here, so tree rings cannot be counted. Indeed, coppiced trees actually have two ages: the age of their roots (their real age), and the age of the shoots or in this case, the multiple large trunks.

 

Coppicing maintains trees at a juvenile stage, and a regularly coppiced tree virtually never dies of old age (it may require fertilizing if the soil becomes depleted of nutrients). Some trees in England are thought to have been continually coppiced for centuries.

 

In any event, coppiced trees are not eligible for Pennsylvania Big Tree status. Regardless, this tree is re- markable and should be protected. It sits unheralded at the edge of a new housing development and efforts to secure its protection (from lightning, children, and the Emerald Ash Borer) have not yet been successful.

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[The last photo shows the tree in early Spring 2015, before the housing development existed.]