Make Like a Tree and Leaf
Well, today’s blog title is not just a silly pun; one of our trees has literally left us this week. Among all the excitement of remodeling the house, we failed to recognize that one of elms near the old sheds contracted Dutch elm disease. I feel bad about it, even though I doubt there was much we could do (anti-fungal treatments are very expensive). So anyway, today’s post is a bit of a tribute to our first fallen tree.
The above photo was taken a couple weeks ago, and as you can see, it was definitely struggling. Not too long after, the city forester was apparently in the area, tagged the tree with red spray paint and left a note saying we would be getting a notice to remove the marked tree. According to city ordinance, homeowners have 30 days to remove a marked tree after it’s been identified by the city forester as being diseased. Of course, I wanted to take care of it right away, so I looked up “Dutch elm disease tree removal” on an online phone book an called the first number there: Affordable Tree Service. A guy came out a couple days later to give an estimate (which I think was reasonable), and then last Friday they came and took the troubled tree down:
You may notice that they left an awful lot of stump behind after taking the tree down. Well, that’s because of the awkward little detail that there is a fence running through the trunk. Apparently this tree was not intentionally placed. I can only assume that an elm seed got under the fenceline, and no one weeded there. It must have grown into a sapling and then into a mature tree, fusing around the fence that protected it from the mower blades (is that possibly a little romantic?). It’s quite odd that this was an oops-tree — you can see from the first photo, it did a perfect job obscuring the dilapidated shed from view.
But anyway, the arborist couldn’t grind the stump down because the embedded metal fence would destroy his machinery, so they left and came back on Wednesday with a new strategy: saws. Lots of saws. Paul and I were on the roof the whole time they were there working, so I can’t say for sure how they did it. But when we came down we saw that they were able to whittle down quite a bit using a bolt-cutter and a number of chainsaws:
Not too shabby, all things considered! The arborist in charge of the tree removal suggested that we could remove the rest of the stump ourselves by drilling holes in the top and pouring a stump-dissolving chemical into the holes. I can’t say I’m particularly comfortable with that, but it sounds better than what the other guy chimed in with: soak the stump in kerosene then set it on fire after it’s soaked in (I think/hope he was saying it tongue-in-cheek). Anyone know of any less caustic ways of getting rid of a stump? The only other option I’ve ever heard involves an axe and a whole lot of pent-up aggression.
The other thing the tree removal team had to do was de-bark what was left of the tree. This makes sense, since the vector for Dutch elm disease is a bark-eating beetle. Since this whole tree incident, I’ve read up a lot on Dutch elm disease any other tree maladies. This stuff was not included in any of my “first-time homeowners” guides that I got from the library, and I wish it had been! So, I’d like to conclude with a bit of a public service announcement: if you are a homeowner with an American elm on your property, please familiarize yourself with the symptoms of Dutch elm disease (DED) so you can catch it early. From the US Department of Agriculture:
DED symptoms are the result of a fungus infecting the vascular (water conducting) system of the tree. Infection by the fungus results in clogging of vascular tissues, preventing water movement to the crown and causing visual symptoms as the tree wilts and dies.
Foliage symptoms: Symptoms of DED begin as wilting of leaves and proceed to yellowing and browning. The pattern of symptom progression within the crown varies depending on where the fungus is introduced to the tree. If the fungus enters the tree through roots grafted to infected trees (see disease cycle section), the symptoms may begin in the lower crown on the side nearest the graft and the entire crown may be affected very rapidly. If infection begins in the upper crown, symptoms often first appear at the end of an individual branch (called “flagging”) and progress downward in the crown.
Multiple branches may be individually infected, resulting in symptom development at several locations in the crown (figure 2). Symptoms begin in late spring or any time later during the growing season. However, if the tree was infected the previous year (and not detected), symptoms may first be observed in early spring. Symptoms may progress throughout the whole tree in a single season, or may take two or more years.
Scary stuff. Let’s all promise to be more vigilant home- and tree- owners from now on so as to better the health of our tree community.