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Monday, October 22, 2018

Autumn Elm

You can live a long time in one place and still make discoveries. Yesterday's discovery was just how many American elms there are around here. American elms used to be common as they were the preferred tree for city planting in the 19th century due to their shape and color. And they are beautiful trees, large, majestic, everything a tree should be.

I assumed for quite a while that elms were pretty much a threatened species  well on their way to being extinct thanks to Dutch elm disease which ravaged the population. Dutch elm disease and the monocultivation of elms is Exhibit A in why diversity of planting is a good thing. Diversity provides built in resistance.

I was both surprised and pleased to discover about a year ago that on the grounds of the science center where I work there were not one but two large elms. Outside my window. That I looked at every day. I just assumed they were cottonwoods, the other large, beautiful majestic tree in my ecosystem. It wasn't till I picked up a leaf that I realize oh wow, elms! Once I started looking I found several more in the trees planted behind our center, a space called the Mayor's Grove where a tree is planted for every mayor. 

The elms outside my window have been providing quite the autumnal show. Their leaves turn a lovely yellow orange which is a shade different than the orange yellow of the cottonwood. Maybe it is some combination of the right amount of moisture and temperature this year but I do not recall such a display before. I've been enjoying the view, so much so that when I get stuck on a problem or need a short brain break I go outside and look at the elms.

Yesterday was a golden October day. The leaves were still in full color and the temperature was in the 60's. Knowing such days will become less frequent I took advantage of it and went for a long walk on one of the wooded islands on the Missouri River. My destination was the furthest point on the island, a distance of about two and half to three miles.

It has been a while since I've been on this trail, since spring at least. But it is a familiar trail to me, one I visit several times a year. As I hiked I noticed the leaf color and trees that I always thought cottonwoods suddenly became elms. How could I have not noticed? As with the trees on my workplace campus I suppose you don't see what you don't think you will find.

I hope to find more elms in my knocking about the grasslands. According to the wikipedia article about the American elm, wild elms may have a natural resistance to Dutch elm disease. I hope so as I now feel very protective of the elms.