September 24, 2014 – Matt Markworth
While Big Blue Nation awaits another exciting college basketball season, another Kentucky icon quietly stands in relative obscurity – the ancient, big blue ash trees of Castlewood Park and other Lexington urban parks.
Successfully avoiding the encroaching development that has threatened ancient blue ash trees in other areas of the Bluegrass, these centuries-old trees inspire us to protect venerable trees throughout the city and the surrounding woodland pastures.
The native range of the species extends primarily through the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. A review of the champion tree lists from those states reveals that the dimensions of the Lexington trees are truly superlative.
Castlewood Park boasts several ancient blue ashes, with the largest measuring an astounding 14’9” in circumference at 4.5’ above the ground, the standard height at which circumference is measured. Despite the unimaginable number of storms it has experienced in its lifetime and the resulting damage and regrowth, the tree still stands at an impressive height of 81’. Including this awe-inspiring tree, Castlewood contains six blue ashes with a circumference greater than 13’.
An imposing bur oak, with a circumference of 18’1” and height of 95.5’, stands guard over the ancient grove. A bench underneath the bur oak provides the perfect opportunity to relax and admire these remarkable trees.
Other parks containing very old blue ashes include Woodland Park and Ecton Park. Even though they are not quite as massive as the largest blue ash at Castlewood, all of these trees have their own unique
character and are worthy of admiration.
Although we have these treesamong us now to enjoy, there are many serious threats that jeopardize the future of the blue ash. The species seems more resistant to the emerald ash borer than some other ashes, but the infestation still poses a serious threat, in addition to the threat of development.
Although there are many challenges, we must work to protect the blue ash trees that are so strongly identified with the beautiful landscape and history of the Bluegrass.