A three-quarter-mile-long row of poplars that lines Interstate 5 as it leads into Ashland has been trimmed down to improve the health of the aging, gangly trees.

A three-quarter-mile-long row of poplars that lines Interstate 5 as it leads into Ashland has been trimmed down to improve the health of the aging, gangly trees.

The trees were topped a few weeks ago.

About 400 poplars were planted in the row in 1976 to provide a wind buffer to a Bear Creek Orchards pear orchard spreading to the south.

Poplars have a short lifespan by tree standards, and many of the poplars in the row are dead or dying, according to representatives from Harry & David, which uses fruit from the orchard in its gift boxes and baskets.

"Eventually they will be replaced with something with more longevity. Poplars are great, but they just don't last very long," said Rhonda Klug, public relations manager for Harry & David.

In January, workers cut down a 70-tree section of the row. Over the next several years, more poplars will be removed and the row will be replanted with a deciduous tree species, according to Harry & David.

Klug said the replacement species has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, trimming the remaining poplars will help keep them healthy, she said.

Klug said there are no immediate plans to cut more poplars from the row, especially since harvest season is arriving and the poplars provide an important wind buffer.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials have previously said they are pleased that Harry & David is tending to the trees.

Officials had worried that the tall, brittle trees could fall onto the highway shoulder or onto I-5 itself.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.