This is the weekly Nature Notes & Signs of the Season Meme
and for the Monthly Festival of Trees (Festival 44).
This story caught my eye as we have been watching a beautiful elm tree on our next door neighbor’s lawn die from dutch elm disease. The tree predated this housing development and the woman who has lived in the house for over 25 years didn’t even know she that it was an elm tree let alone that it was dying. No care here has given care to most of the trees on this street heavily damaged from an ice storm 3 years ago. We were the only people who hired a certified aborist to come and trim our damaged trees. The rest of the trees stand as broken, jagged reminders of what was once a lovely tree lined street.
New England’s largest and oldest elm tree, which has stood in Yarmouth, MA was cut down Tuesday, a victim of Dutch elm disease. Known as Herbie, the 110 foot tree was estimated at 240 years old and came down before a crowd of onlookers that included its caretaker for a half-century, Frank Knight, who is 101.
Afterward,Frank Knight was greeted with a round of applause as he joined a crowd that gathered around the tree’s stump. Steadied with a cane, Knight watched a state official count the tree’s rings.
A preliminary count of growth rings by Peter Lammert of the Maine Forest Service indicated that Herbie the elm tree was 212 years old. A precise age will be announced after the trunk is sanded smooth and examined under magnification, Lammert said.
Judging by the revised age, it’s now believed Herbie sprouted around 1798, not long after the 13 original colonies gained their independence and shipbuilding had taken root on the shores of Yarmouth MA. Over the years, generations of residents passed under the shade tree.
And more than 50 years, Frank Knight took care of Herbie. He saw the tree through 15 bouts with Dutch elm disease, spraying, pruning, picking off bugs, doing whatever he could to keep the massive tree alive.
As a man who has worked with trees his entire life, Knight knew that Herbie’s current case of Dutch elm was fatal, and that the tree had be taken down. It’s the right thing to do, but not an easy thing to do.
Of course I’m sad, but everything’s got to go,” said Knight, who is 101 years old and was Yarmouth’s tree warden for 50 years. “It’s pret-near my time, too. I’m just glad we had Herbie all these years.”
Knight began as tree warden when a rash of Dutch elm disease was breaking out in 1956. A couple of years later, he and others in town had to cut down 100 elms that had the disease. Knight, Yarmouth’s volunteer tree warden, realized he couldn’t save the town’s elms, which were dying by the hundreds from the fungal disease. So he focused his efforts on one tree – the giant elm with a straight trunk and sturdy branches at the corner of East Main Street and Yankee Drive.
Knight worked year after year to keep it alive. Besides strategic prunings, it got inoculations of a fungicide, every three years at first, then every year.
“It’s been cut about 13 times because of disease, but it was such a beautiful tree,” said Knight. “There were some bigger, but none more beautiful, with that nice straight trunk.”
Knight thinks it’s funny that stories about him and Herbie make him look like “the biggest tree lover.”
Having been a pulpwood dealer and a woodlot owner, Knight said, he probably “has taken down more trees than anyone in Maine.
This is a 3 minute video of Frank Knight talking lovingly about Herbie. “Its time has come and mine is about due, too. I’m 101,” he said with typically New England directness.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
The town web site has more than you ever wanted to know about Herbie, including a way to order Herbie tee shirts and a poetic ode to the defunct tree.
While Herbie was big, it wasn’t the nation’s tallest elm. There’s a taller one in Baltimore County, Md., and it’s possible that a new champion elm, in Ohio, will be crowned this year by American Forests, which keeps tabs on big trees, according to Jan Ames Santerre, Maine’s tall tree coordinator.
What are you seeing out and about in your yard? Did you read or see something on television that struck a chord with you about nature? Write a blog post about it and link back to here..
This week’s participants.
Carver-Warming Up Considerably
QuiltWorks-Follow The Poop
Jill-Trinidad & Tobago
Vicki-Ice, Ice Baby
Crafty Green Poet-Dark Mountain – carbon, nature and culture
Crafty Green Post-snowdrops (haiku)
Nicole-Friday birding at the Jolie ville golf course
Eva-My View Today