The American Elm (Ulmus americana) known for its rapid growth and and hardiness was the perfect tree to enhance the towns and cities of a young America. Although there are many Elm Streets and Elm Avenues the devastation of Dutch elm disease (DED) left few of the namesake trees standing.
If you are age 40 or younger you may never have seen the elms of a truly majestic Elm Street. Trees were planted to form vistas of cathedral ceilings. Unfortunately, planting the elms in such density contributed to the spread of DED.
American elms resistant to DED, stands that have been carefully managed and varieties bred for disease resistance can be still be found.
One of the best known stands of old-growth elms can be found in Central Park in New York.
The poet and essayist Stanley Plumly died earlier this month. He was born in Barnesville, Ohio and grew up in Winchester, Virginia and Piqua, Ohio. He was most recently a professor at the University of Maryland and served as Maryland’s Poet Laureate from 2009-2012. In 2016 he was interviewed on the Kenyon Review podcast during which he read his poem ‘Dutch Elm.’ As woodworkers I think you will appreciate how he expresses what was lost, and what can be lost, when part of our natural world is damaged.
If you would like to listen only to his reading of the poem, it starts around minute 19:55. Click here to listen.
The gallery below shows the leaves, flowers, fruit and bark of the American elm.