Saturday, January 08, 2011


I haven't written about my precious hemlock trees in a while, and considering the title of this blog, it's overdue.

When the invasive insect plague started to destroy our hemlock groves and ecosystems, our government had plenty of time to react. However, they didn't do anything of any consequence to prevent what has almost certainly become the extinction of two major species of what are arguably our most beautiful eastern evergreens.

Until we develop some biological solution to the control and/or eradication of the introduced pest--the hemlock wooly adelgid--the only thing that can be done to save our Eastern and Carolina hemlocks is to treat them with an insecticide. These treatments (generally soil injected) target the infestations of adelgids that subsist by sucking dry the needles of these trees. This was never done on a wide basis because our society would rather construct and use weapons of mass destruction to slaughter other human beings than save an entire ecosystem.

However, in a few narrowly targeted places some groves and individual trees were treated by various arms of Federal, State, and local governments (and by private individuals). Many people have ventured out at their own expense to locate and treat large tracts of hemlock forests. The most concentrated efforts at doing this have been by the Department of the Interior, generally under the National Parks System. One can find hemlock trees in National Parks and in designated sites where the trees have been treated with either Merit or Safari brand insecticides. These treatments effectively kill off the infestations and provide the trees with several years of protection against the invasive bugs.

One place where you can see trees that have been treated are along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Wherever the Park Service has determined that the views warrant protecting a few stands, they have set aside some of their meager budget for these treatments. One such place is the trail that leads from the Linville Gorge visitors center down to the overlook above the falls. Some of these hemlocks are very old and impressive trees (they were once called the Redwoods of the East), and so some of them have been saved.

Following are a few photos I took of some treated hemlocks two years ago on a hike down to the Falls Overlook:

Hemlocks that have been treated are generally marked in some way. Sometimes with a daub of paint, with a brass tag, or both.

Composite photo of an old growth hemlock tree on the trail to the overlook. (Click to see at full size.)

Carole took this one of me standing beside one of the treated hemlocks.

An old growth hemlock that had succumbed to the infestation and which could not be saved and which was subsequently cut down to prevent it from falling on hikers walking by.

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