You’ll see the “talking” trees shortly after you venture onto the Ruth Samuelson Trail on the edge of Freedom Park. The trail entrance is along the sidewalk on Princeton Avenue, and is part of Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

First, you’ll pass a new sign that reads, “You are entering the Valley of the Big Ash Trees.”

That’s to catch your attention.

Then, as you venture along and look to the left, you’ll notice a large pair of red lips on a white sign stuck to a tree.

That sign reads, “Hey!” (Very peppy, quite friendly.)

It continues, “I’m an Ash Tree being treated for protection from the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). My care has been donated by Heartwood Tree Service. Learn more about how you can protect your Ash at:”

If you take the time to look, you should be able to find 20 of these lip-wearing ash trees around the path and among the trees in the fenced-off Discovery Place Nature facility (formerly Charlotte Nature Museum).

The signs have been up about six weeks, said Heartwood Tree Service owner Patrick George. He is already known for his crusade to preserve Charlotte’s tree canopy, from saving cherry trees in Freedom Park from getting cut down by the city in 2005, to riding in the STIHL Tour de Trees to support tree research and education programs, to “adopting” and treating an ash tree near Freedom Park’s band shell.

“The whole idea is just to raise awareness for people to start thinking and seeing,” George said of the signs.

The website link shared via Heartwood’s “talking” tree campaign reminds ash tree owners to get a protection plan in place. For more details, or to learn how to pinpoint an ash tree, click here.

According to Heartwood, preventative insecticide treatment given to ash trees is the best way to protect them from the ash borer, a pest native to Asia and Eastern Russia that is smaller than a penny and green in color. They are capable of killing a tree in the span of two years, typically attacking the top of the tree, then progressing down the trunk.

“My hope is we’ll be smart enough to get enough of them treated here,” George said.

Especially since evidence of ash borers has already been found in the Charlotte area. Just last year, 30 dead trees at the Sally’s YMCA preserve had to be cut down as a result of the beetles.

Since the 20 signs went up, Heartwood has already received more inquiries about identifying ash trees and getting them treated, but not as many as George would like.

“It’s hard to get people to get proactive on trees,” he said. “…You’ve got to get people’s interest for them to do something.”

Photos: Katie Toussaint