American Elm Tree – Plant of the Month

American elms were the dominant tree species along city and suburban streets across the Eastern United States through the first half of the 20th century. These graceful, towering trees with their vase-shape form created cathedral-like canopies. The elm was prized for its fast growth that provided quick shade and for its ability to tolerate poor soil conditions along city streets.

Disaster struck when elm logs shipped from Europe to the United States released the European elm bark beetle, carrier for the fungus that causes Dutch Elm Disease.   First found in Ohio in the 1930s, it spread from state to state and by the mid-60s it had killed millions of trees, leaving cities with the task of removing thousands of massive elms.

The loss of the American elm as a street tree left a hole that was difficult to replace. Maples and ashes were planted in larger numbers along streets to replace the elm, but now ash tree populations are being decimated by another introduced pest, the Emerald ash borer.

The search for an elm resistant to Dutch elm disease that grows in the typical vaseshaped form has been going on for decades. Three promising American elm cultivars, ‘Valley Forge’, ‘Princeton,’ introduced by Princeton Nurseries from around Kingston, and ‘New Harmony,’ are showing good Dutch elm disease resistance.

On Arbor Day [April 27th] a ‘Princeton’ elm tree donated by members of the Environmental Commission and Green Team was planted along the driveway to the Benjamin Temple House at Drake Farm Park.   Mayor Steinmann spoke to those gathered about the importance of planting trees in Ewing Township.

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