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Century old tree cut down in Public Garden due to Dutch Elm disease

Posted by Your Town  August 22, 2012 12:58 PM

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A 100-year-old Belgium elm tree is being removed in the Public Garden Wednesday in a preventative measure after its bark tested positive for Dutch elm disease.

The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation already removed one elm in June and three more elms last summer along the Boylston edge of the garden, according to the Friends of the Public Garden, an organization that was established in 1970 to care and enhance Boston’s beloved public parks.

“When a grand old tree dies, it touches something deeply in everybody,” said Elizabeth Vizza, the executive director of Friends of the Public Garden.

Removal of the elm, located close to the Charles Sumner statue, began around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

These trees are approximately 80 to 100-feet tall and all five once created a large amount of shade on the walkway. Since their removal, more sunlight has been allowed in that space for the smaller shrubs and trees nearby, Vizza said.

“The new light situation is changing the ecosystem and has even allowed new views to the pond,” she said, adding that the removal of the elms is a “bittersweet thing.”

Dutch elm disease was first identified in the United States in the early 1930s. According to the Friends of the Public Garden, the disease can be transmitted by two species of bark beetles or by root grafts of nearby infected trees. Diseased trees will usually display wilting, curling, and yellowing of the leaves on one or more branches in the upper portion of the tree.

If the Friends the Public Garden find a tree that has been infected by the elm bark beetles and caught soon enough, the tree can sometimes be treated and saved. Ones that are infected by root graft, like the one being removed today, cannot be treated.

“In recent years, we’ve had a lot of fundraisers by other organizations so we can inoculate trees,” Jaue Goddard, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “We do a lot of preventative work to try and save trees.”

The partnership between the department and Friends of the Public Garden has allowed swift action to be taken when diseased trees are found to avoid spreading it to nearby foliage.

Vizza also said that another elm tree in the Boston Common is also infected and will be removed soon.

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