Lost a Big One

Dutch Elm by Midwest Gardening

Dutch Elm claimed an enormous tree that shaded my deck and the whole of my house from hot afternoon sun. It is so unfortunate that there was nothing I could do but watch it die and ultimately have it taken down. About the time of the diagnosis, the city tagged a mature Ash tree in my boulevard to be removed preemptively, in the face of local identification of Emerald Ash Borer. At least that tree I can save with treatments.

Ironically, the Ash trees were planted many years ago to replace trees lost to Dutch Elm disease. Historically it has been common for communities to plant very specific trees that were tolerant of difficult conditions but that create beautiful urban canopies. A hundred years ago as much as 90 percent of the boulevard trees in Minneapolis were American Elm. A similar lack of diversity has devastated the canopies in many areas across the country. To make matters worse, the lost Elm were replaced by a large number of Green Ash that grow quickly and were also tolerant of urban conditions. Some diversity of species was helpful, but the canopy loss of Ash trees is again very substantial.

I can't say I agree with the course of action Minneapolis has chosen to stop the spread of Emerald Ash Borer. Healthy trees are taken down as a preemptive action. Homeowners have the option of treating these healthy trees, but I am also not crazy about the chemical assault that is required to save these healthy trees. Our sister city, St. Paul, on the other hand, has chosen to monitor for infestation. Infected trees are promptly removed and replaced and many trees are being chemically treated. I prefer that course of action not only because it seems more fiscally responsible, but primarily because I loathe the idea of removing beautiful mature trees that remain healthy.

Slowly the canopies across the country are being replaced with much greater diversity. Perhaps we will find a different beauty in the variety of trees, but I think we will always long for the majestic beauty of the old canopy giants.

Sharon Dwyer