Ash borer trees turned into furniture

August 8, 2008 4:41:44 PM PDT
Recently, many trees were damaged in the Chicago area because of the emerald ash borer. But not all the infected trees went to the chipper. The lumber is now part of a new furniture exhibit.

In the heart of the Morton Arboretum, nestled under a giant ash tree, sit pieces of high-end, custom made furniture carved out of ash, a wood that's not commonly used by furniture makers.

"I just love the color. It's just? beautiful, light very creamy," said Dolly Spragins, furniture maker.

Spragins is one of a growing number of Chicago-based furniture makers who create pieces out of the ash that's salvaged from trees destroyed by the emerald ash border.

Spragins' chair is one of dozens of pieces featured in a traveling exhibit coming soon to the arboretum called "Rising from the Ashes." It shows the potential of ash to be used for what's called "urban timber," not just a source for baseball bats.

It also highlights a growing concern that millions of trees in 10 states, including Illinois have fallen victim to the ash borer. And millions more are vulnerable.

"We worked to harvest all of the urban timber throughout our communities. We supply up to 25 percent of our hardwood needs nationally," said Edith Makra, Morton Arboretum.

Organizers of the exhibit say they hope to raise awareness that beauty and art can be created out of a wood that would otherwise be thrown away.