The Michael Trebert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is sponsoring a year-long American Elm Heritage Project in the City of Forks, Wash. The Project will also be conducted again in 2023 and 2024 in Port Angeles and Sequim. The objectives of the Project are to:
1) help restore the American elm species by planting 10 commemorative American elm trees in Forks and preparing an interpretive site for the celebration of America’s 250th anniversary in 2026;
2) inspire the Forks community to learn about and care for trees; and,
3) learn about our Nation’s history and individual heritage through educational and information programs. The Dutch elm-resistant trees will be planted at Forks City Hall and several other locations during a commemoration ceremony on Arbor Day, April 29, 2022.
If the American elm, Ulmus americana, had not been decimated for nearly a century by Dutch elm disease, it may very well have been chosen to be the national tree of the United States. But, because all but a few resistant trees throughout the country were killed by the fungus, history granted that title to the white oak (Quercus alba) – awarded in 2004 by the U.S. Congress after a nation-wide vote hosted by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
Hundreds of millions of American elms that once lined the streets of cities and towns throughoutAmerica have been killed by the fungus since 1928 when the Asiatic pathogen first appeared in this country. The fungus was introduced to native elms in the State of Ohio by infected elm logs imported from England. The disease rapidly spread with the help of the European and native elm bark beetles that carry spores of the fungus into the trees. When the beetles emerge as adults from infected elms, they carry the fungus with them to other trees.
Before the 20th Century, American elms were growing everywhere in most states east of the RockyMountains. Early North American explorers and their botanists recorded the abundance of American elms in the forests where they visited. The trees grew to immense sizes, many as large as 5-7 feet in diameter, throughout this huge range from Canada to Texas. The elms were primary components of dense hardwood forests in the Eastern United States and along sheltered drainages of the windy prairies.
Several genetic qualities of the American elm helped the tree to successfully adapt to a wide variety of climatic conditions. The trees are prolific seeders, maturing early and producing light, ‘winged’ seed that could be carried by the wind or water for miles. Unlike other hardwood species that have 14 chromosomes, it has 28, allowing the tree to change its sex if needed for pollination or seed production after being established in an area distant from others of the species. The tree is also long-lived, generally reaching the ages of 100-200 years. Trees older than three hundred years trees have been recorded.
For thousands of years, American elm played a significant role in ecosystem protection and stability.
Though the tree is not well adapted to wet or poorly drained soils, it found the fertile soils adjacent to rivers and streams suitable to inhabit. Once established, their huge, V-shaped crowns formed cathedral-like domes over fish-bearing streams, providing shade to moderate stream temperatures and large, hard, downed logs for instream habitat. The elm, a sturdy, wind-resistant tree, provided shelter for young forests and protected against soil erosion. The trees were homes and a source of mast (food) for many species of mammals, birds and reptiles.
The American elm’s wood is very hard and difficult to saw or plane. Native American tribes throughout the elm’s range used the wood for roof construction, baskets, cordage, weapons, medicine, smoking meats and cooking. The largest elms were used as markers for territory boundaries and signposts for tribal council gatherings. The wood of the American elm can be steamed and bent into various forms.
European settlers used the American elmwood for barrel staves, boat keels, skirt hoops, yokes, carriage wheels, and furniture.
The American elm tree has been a quiet and constant part of our American history. George Washington stood under the American elm in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1775 when he took command of the Continental Army at the beginning of the American Revolution. Since American elms are indicators of good soil, settlers often established their farms near the trees.
Throughout the United States, old elm trees surrounded pre-21st century farmhouses, providing protection from winter storms and cooling shade during hot summer months. The American elm was often planted near houses in cities and countryside to symbolize the relationships between families, friends, family heritage and values. After the American Revolution, citizens believed that elm trees helped towns to project modern civic ideals and planted them near churches and government buildings.
The American elm has come to symbolize civic cooperation and patriotism.
Description of the American Elm
• The American Elm is a deciduous tree, native to North American forests and lowlands east of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Texas.
• The American elm is a beautiful shade tree with an urn shape typical of elms and a fibrous root system that makes it easy to transplant. The trees are susceptible to Dutch Elm disease, but disease-resistant clones can be planted successfully.
• The American Elm requires full sun but can tolerate light shade. The leaves are alternate with a doubly toothed margin and unequal base. The bark is ashy gray. The tree flowers in the late winter.
Seeds are at the center of a flat, round samaras.
For more information regarding Michael Trebert’s American Elm Heritage Project, or how to participate in and/or and/or support the project please call: (509) 680-3569 OR email: [email protected]
Donations to support the Elm project may be made by sending a check – memo ELM — to the Michael Trebert Chapter / DAR, and mailed to P.O. Box 1917, Port Angeles, Wash. 98362.
Trebert / DAR is a 501 3(c) Non-profit Organization.
Michael Trebert Chapter – 7027WA-NSDAR
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
P.O. Box 1917
Port Angeles, WA 98362