By Larry Hamilton | Charlotte Tree Warden
Late June and early July have proven to be humdingers in decline or total loss of some prominent members of our (tree) community. The unusual springtime drought has proven difficult for newly planted trees, and in response we shut down our roadside tree planting program early to await autumn’s soil moisture recharge. Fortunately, the nine trees planted for shade at the Town Beach playground have received tender loving watering thanks to Greg Smith (Recreation Commission) and the beach attendant Emma Slater with assist from the tree warden team.
Currently three of the Dutch elm disease-resistant trees that we planted at the Old Lantern in 2009 are showing dismaying symptoms of twig and small branch dieback that can be symptoms of the dreaded DED. We did lose three of this original planting two years ago to DED. So much for “resistance” of this particular cross-bred variety!
In 1997, I launched a contest to find and identify the native tree species having the largest girths in town. Abundant submissions were made and checked out, and a roster of Charlotte’s Big Trees was assembled and publicized. As larger trees were revealed by diligent tree lovers, former champions were replaced by new ones. In addition, Abenaki names were applied where these were known.
Sadly, two of these giants were lost in late June, early July.
Our biggest butternut in Charlotte (at Horsfords Nursery) fell down on July 3—10 minutes after two children had climbed up it and had photo taken by their mother. The family then went into the garden shop and “whoosh”—the tree fell over!!! It hit a parked nursery truck, with no one in it. The tree was in poor shape, I knew, but it was our Charlotte champion with 192-inch circumference (see photo). A memorial ceremony was held by Charlie Proutt of Horsfords on July 15. Horsford Nursery still has two other champions, the largest black locust and the largest horse chestnut.
Even before this, I was really desolate. The champion slippery elm (also called red elm) located at the Garrett home on Thompson’s Point Road is totally DEAD!!! (See photo.) It was not only the biggest of its species in Charlotte but also biggest in New York, New Hampshire and Maine. Last fall it was in fine shape, and The Nature Conservancy took some samples for their breeding program for Dutch elm disease resistance trials. TNC scientist Gus Goodwin and I collected seed from it on May 13 of this year. On June 23 (I was away in Maine) we got the incredible report from Elizabeth Bassett that it was dead! I have never seen a total tree succumb to DED like that and so fast.
TNC will culture the disease to see if it is some new strain. Dave and Christie Garrett are dismayed. The tree must come down, but its wood will be fully utilized by a local woodworker and by Dave himself. A ceremonial “taking down” is planned.
And so, Charlotte does not have a state and northeast states champion in the form of our slippery elm. And we seek a new slippery elm candidate as a successor. Also a new butternut. Do you have one for us? Send candidates to firstname.lastname@example.org.