Birch trees dying in Eugene: 'The tree would potentially slowly fall apart limb by limb'

Check out the top of this birch tree. “The tree would potentially slowly fall apart limb by limb,” Sean O’Brien with the City of Eugene says. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - You may soon see birch trees being removed in your neighborhood.

It’s all part of an ongoing problem in the Willamette Valley.

The City of Eugene says the majority of the city’s 2,700 birch trees are infested.

And the city says healing those trees seems unlikely.

“The tree would potentially slowly fall apart limb by limb,” Sean O’Brien with the City of Eugene says.

It’s life has been cut short by hundreds of Bronze Birch Borers - a type of beetle, native to North America.

“Once they reach this point, it is too late,” O’Brien says.

The problem is, these trees were planted about a decade ago and never needed to adapt to the beetles because the trees aren’t native to Oregon.

“They don't have a tolerance built up,” he says.

The city says droughts and not watering trees frequently causes beetles to make a home in them.

“The beetle is in its larval stage underneath the bark; it's feeding on what's called a cambium layer, which causes the water and nutrients to not be transported up into the tree,” he says.

The beetles work as a tourniquet, effectively cutting off all of the circulation to your limbs, and slowly killing the tree.

And, if you see D-shaped holes in the bark, that means the larvae have turned into adults, leaving for a new tree.

Eugene resident Don Gilbert would know best.

“We lived in this house for 30 years and we did everything we could to promote the growth of the six or seven birches on the parking strip,” he says.

One of them nearly destroyed his vehicle.

“That night, the tree came down the truck turned around and said you missed me,” Gilbert says.

So, he planted maple trees instead, something the city says is a good idea.

“The best practice is just to stop planting susceptible species,” O’Brien says.

Bringing more native White Oak and Ponderosa Pine to the valley.

The City of Eugene says the best ways to prevent this infestation is to mulch and water your birch trees frequently.

The city will be removing birch trees in public areas that are already infested.

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