In western North Carolina, and especially in the Great Smoky Mountains and points north and south, it’s all but over.
The hemlock trees are all but history in those areas. What we call “hwa”, the hemlock wooly adelgid, has pretty much run its destructive course and all but a handful of hemlock groves are now completely dead or barely hanging on.
As I said, I’ve know for some years that this day was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier to take. I feel very sad about this, but also extremely angry. Our government could have taken steps to save these trees and their accompanying ecosystems from destruction, but it was more concerned with committing mass murder in Iraq than in preserving two species of tree.
The Carolina hemlock and the eastern hemlock species are likely doomed to extinction, much as we saw the demise of the American chestnut tree. Yes, there are banks of seed and groves planted far away to serve as a source of new genetic material if the day arrives when the adelgid on these shores has breathed its sap-sucking last.
But all it would have taken is the application of an available adelgicide on our hemlock groves to save at least some of them until biologists could come up with a solution to put a stop to the invasive insects that have destroyed our southern and eastern groves of hemlocks. But more hideous priorities took the monetary pie into which we might have dipped.
And so it goes. Mankind has its twisted priorities.
Dead hemlocks along the Cherohala Skyway. (Photo by Will Blozan)