There is bittersweet beauty to the intense yellow that ash trees have splashed across the landscape this year.
The display is making it easier to understand how much of the region's canopy is at risk from emerald ash borer.
The invasive beetle has devastated ash populations in the upper Midwest. Each summer brings the ash borer closer to Nebraska.
Less than a month ago, it was found in Colorado for the first time; earlier this summer it moved farther into eastern Iowa; and last year it was found in northwest Missouri and Kansas.
The borer has been described in the same apocalyptic terms as Dutch elm disease, which wiped out much of the nation's American elms.
“While I tell people that, given enough time, we're probably going to lose most of our ash trees, I don't know what that means: 'Given enough time,' ” said Mark Harrell, forest health project leader for the Nebraska Forest Service.
Also at risk are other types of ash, such as the white and autumn purple ash, whose leaves change to reddish-purple.
There was a time when infestations moved quickly through states, leaving communities to suddenly deal with large numbers of dead trees.
Now, research and hard-won experience have slowed it, Harrell said. As long as Nebraska communities commit resources to containing ash borer, the spread may be manageable, he said.