QOTD: Any survivors?

An "avenue" of American Elms, ca. 1910

The American Elm was virtually wiped out by the Dutch Elm Beetle by the end of the 1960s, totally transforming the look and character of North Country towns and forests. On The Story today at 2 pm, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking people across the country to help them identify any remaining healthy trees.

Today’s Question of the Day:

Are there any surviving American Elms where you are?

Bonus question:

Would you plant disease-resistant elms, if they were readily available?


17 Comments on “QOTD: Any survivors?”

  1. Martha Foley says:

    Still elms around, but they don’t get very old. There’s a wonderful old elm, though, Town of Canton, on the Eben Road between Crary Mills and the South Canton Road. It’s all alone in the middle of a field. Maybe that’s kept it safe? Every year I look for signs of decline. I remember how fast the huge elm on the corner of Canton’s village park died.
    Question #2 – yes.

  2. stillin says:

    In Massena, there is Elm St. and Elm Circle…and some are still standing. On my street, Allen St…there were Elm’s planted dividing every homeowner’s property years ago..in the 1960’s, when I got off the bus onto my street in the warm months…it was entirely shaded from these huge, beautiful elms. Now, if people haven’t cut down trees on their own for their own reasons, of which I don’t understand, there are very few big trees left on my street. I am a tree lover, and I believe they do have a living spirit.

  3. Paul says:

    I have about 6 medium age elm trees on property I own in the Adirondacks (NW). I wonder how common they are in this area? These are some of the only ones that I have seen in the area. They are in a very wet area that is kind of cut off on an island of sorts only really connected to the mainland by a wetland. Perhaps they are more protected there. They grow slow in these conditions but I would have to say they are at least 50 years old. Maybe older and just stunted because of all the water.

  4. Paul says:

    I would plant them but I don’t like the idea in general of planting trees based on a “clonal” population like that. These type of trees tend to lack any genetic diversity so all individuals in the population are prone to other diseases and other threats more than a wild population of trees. They have been selected for elm disease resistance and that leaves them at a bit of a “genetic” disadvantage.

  5. Paul says:

    I take back this comment above. I looked at the project and it looks like they hope to find wild varieties of resistant trees and use those. This is much better.

  6. Paul says:

    They are only looking for 24 minimum DBH trees. That is pretty large, they will get most candidate trees much further south.

  7. Ellen Beberman says:

    I can think of several in the village of Saranac Lake. And what would be the argument against planting disease resistant elms?

  8. Dale Hobson says:

    Ellen asks: “what would be the argument against planting disease resistant elms?”

    Paul, above, begins to make the case: “I don’t like the idea in general of planting trees based on a “clonal” population like that. These type of trees tend to lack any genetic diversity so all individuals in the population are prone to other diseases and other threats more than a wild population of trees.”

    There are Dutch elm disease-resistant varieties on the market now, which do have the potential weaknesses of clonal populations. But the USDA approach is to identify survivor strains in the wild. They should show greater genetic variety, and theoretically better hardiness and overall disease resistance, than the resistant strains now available from nurseries.

    Dale Hobson, NCPR

  9. Pete Klein says:

    One is easy to spot along Rt 30 north of Speculator.
    Jack Leadly assures me there are more in the area.
    I remember growing up in Detroit there were streets where they formed an arch and provided great shade in the summer.

  10. Craig Newman says:

    There is a huge Elm on VT rt15 as you enter Jericho, VT from the west. Remember growing up in the 50’s in Marcellus, NY and those lovely giants lined the streets provided bicycling thrills where their roots heaved the sidewalks up into ramps.

  11. Ellen Beberman says:

    Perhaps the best choice would be to plant elms as one of a variety of street trees. That way, trees that did succumb to the disease could be replaced without leaving a gaping hole in the sidewalk canopy (and without the cost of widespread replacement.)

  12. Paul says:

    The other option is to be patient and hope that the resistant trees (assuming they are) proliferate. We always want things to get fixed on our time scale. You do need to have more than one for that to work in an area.

  13. jill vaughan says:

    We have a huge, gorgeous elm in the middle of a pasture. It’s been a totem- lit by sunet, grey in the snowstorms. Cows under it, picnics under it- raptors in it… we thought we might lose it in the ice storm but it has recovered, and the crown looks normal again.

    Some biologist came and took a lot of cuttings off it, because of the beauty of it’s shape, and it’s obvious health. Never heard if they had luck with the plantings.

    The late evenings, when we would put the cows out.. the grey mornings when it was 20 below and the snow sifted off the barn roof when we went to milk- the elm tree has been there. People stop to photograph it, and kids sought refuge there in the summer.

  14. tootightmike says:

    Since the existing elms survive long enough to become parent trees, and since there’s plenty of cross breeding going on out there in nature among the trees that haven’t yet gotten sick…I have a strong belief that eventually disease resistance will emerge. Helping trees breed is a little like helping minnows. Our efforts are puny in comparison with what’s going on out in the forest.

  15. Ellen Rocco says:

    Like others have noted, we have some young and “teenaged” elms scattered here and there. We are regularly cutting these down as they die before reaching anything close to maturity. When I moved here in 1971, the enormous old elms made the landscap extraordinary. By the end of the ’70s, these had all pretty much died and been cut for firewood. There is a soaring quality to a mature elm, a distinct elegance unlike any other tree.

  16. Martha Foley says:

    I was in Duluth, Minnesota in the summer of 1987 (!) for a reporting workshop. A friend drove me around the city to see the sights. Something was very familiar, but oddly so; it looked like home, but only kind-of. It finally dawned on me that most of the streets there were still shaded by wonderful towering elms, so the effect was very like all my family’s old pictures of Glens Falls.
    Dutch Elm was still spreading west, and had not yet taken the Duluth trees down.

  17. jeff says:

    There are big elms around but generally they are scattered. They are easy to spot because of their distinct shape.The insect that is a vector has to fly a lot further to find the healthy trees so solitary trees or isolated bunches may still be healthy.. There is a big lonely elm down our road and some small ailing ones beside our barn. Some are at the firewood stage.

    I’d plant a few resistant trees.

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