Tuesday, May 25, 2010

American Hardwoods: Elm







"Elm hateth man, and waiteth" as the old saying goes. the elm's mythology is intimately bound up with death and the transition into the Underworld, and used to such deadly effect in mediaeval warfare. Elm's connection with death does not end there, as its wood is traditionally used to make coffins, aand the wood's durability underground may also play a part in this choice. Elms were a reminder of our own mortality and can be found throughout ancient legends.




Elm wood was commonly used for wheels, chair seats and coffins because of it's resistance to splitting. The wood is also resistant to decay when permanently wet, and hollowed trunks were widely used as water pipes during the medieval period in Europe. However this resistance to decay in water does not extend to ground contact.

Elms also have a long history of cultivation for fodder, with the leafy branches cut for livestock. Elm bark, cut into strips and boiled, sustained much of the rural population of Norway during the great famine of 1812. The seeds are particularly nutritious, containing crude protein and fiber.

Dutch elm disease appeared in Europe in 1910, and spread to North America by 1928. Then, 12 years later a more virulent strain of the diesease emerged and within a decade had killed over 20 million elm trees. This pandemic continues today, however the fungus that causes Dutch elm disease is under attack by naturally occuring virus-like agents that reduce its spors.

Amoung the notable elms "Herbie" in Yarmouth, Maine, stood by present-day East Main Street from 1793 to 2010. At 110 feet in height, it was believed to be the oldest and tallest of its kind in New England. The tree, which partially stood in the front yard of a private residence, also had a 20-foot circumference and a 93-foot crown spread. As of 2003, only twenty of Yarmouth's original 739 elms had survived Dutch elm disease. In August 2009 it was revealed that, after battling fifteen bouts of Dutch elm disease, the tree had lost, and on January 19, 2010 it was cut down.

The American Forests National Register of BIG TREES 2010 is a great place to locate massive living trees. You can nominate a tree for the registry, and become it's champion.



Edge of the Wildwood takes you farther into the forest with articles on American Hardwoods. Next week our focus is on the Gum tree; one of 20 species that we profile.

1 comment:

AZCreativeStudio said...

Great post!

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