Mighty Elm

elm1An enormous American Elm (Ulmus americana) crowding a yard on 44th Street near 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park. The old giant took us by surprise: the neighborhood still suffers from the blight of highway above 3rd Avenue, a product of the 1940s and a wretched vision of a promised land of highways to segregated suburbs. Ulmus americanaThe massive bole towers up in the vase-shaped habit characteristic of the species, dwarfing the home it graces. It was hard to get a photographic grip on it because of its height. I wonder what its story is? Who planted it, and when?Ulmus americanaLooking from the opposite, farther end of the block, downhill from 4th Avenue: the taller, darker green is the canopy of our specimen.

I assume its isolation from others of its species has protected it from Dutch elm disease, a fungal infection inadvertently spread by a bark beetle. The damned fungus has killed off many of the great elms in our cities and towns. I recently walked along 3rd Street in Park Slope and remembered another giant U. americana that was there when I lived in the neighborhood 20 years ago. There is no sign of it now.

We are in the midst of the latest city street tree census, Trees Count!2015 This noble life form, however, is not a street tree…

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