Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fighting the Forces of Chaos, Death & Destruction


We just got a pretty expensive estimate for the second round of treatment for American elm that shades the whole back of our house, our deck, and the family room from the hot summer sun for over half the day. Unfortunately, two years ago (a year after we moved in), we realized the big tree had a few branches with some leaves turning yellow and dropping in the middle of summer. Googling revealed that this and brown stripes under the bark (indicating fungus clogged pores) on the smaller twigs are symptoms of Dutch elm disease.

I had erroneously assumed that our big elm meant that the tree was somehow resistant to the tree plague that swept through the midwest in the 40's and 50's, and that were just lucky we didn't have an ash tree in our yard. Whole neighborhoods around us are losing their shade trees (ash was a popular choice for city planners) to the emerald ash borer. Cities are struggling to pay for removing all the ashes on the street right of ways, and many can't pay for new saplings (in different species) to replace the mature ash trees.

Well, Dutch elm disease is still making periodic sweeps through Michigan, and taking some big trees with it. Now I realize what was going on when I saw those creepy black tubes poking out of tree trunks on a couple of college campuses - the trees were getting injected with fungicide to either prevent or attempt to control the fungus carried by the elm beetles. So we're doing that, and aggressive trimming (which has to be done by people who climb with chain saws), and extra watering and fertilizing the tree. It's a lot to spend, but it would actually be more to remove the big dead tree and buy an awning that would cover just a small part of the deck and the sliding glass doors that could easily turn our family room into an oven in July and August. Or even on a sweltering June day like today.

We're also spending money on various medicines & herbs to help our old dog's liver, which has some sort of degenerative disease. Zoe is 12 1/2, which is elderly for a lab/retriever mix, but she's otherwise happy and healthy, so she's getting four different pills daily, on the recommendation of our vet: a prescription, Vitamin E, milk thistle extract, and SAM-e. She likes the new regime, and now refuses to eat her dogfood until after she is given a cheese, peanut butter, or bread wrapped pill.


Naomi said...

Funny you should mention this. We had our elm tree treated just today. It's expensive, but as you noted, removal is even more expensive. We procrastinated for quite a while on the Dutch elm prevention, but it was abundantly clear to us this spring that we had to choose between immediate preventive treatment, and removal. Removal would cost thousands of dollars, and I really like that tree.

S. Lynne Fremont said...

uh oh...now I think I had better worry about my elm tree. It looks pretty healthy now but there might be fungus under the bark. eep.

Sandy said...

Well, according to the tree people (not to be confused with the gnomes on sybermoms ;-) ), if you get the tree treated *before* it shows symptoms you've got a 98% chance of preventing it, as long as you re-inject every three years. We've lost maybe 1/8 of our tree's crown, which may mean we're just delaying its death, but if we get ten more years of shade it would be good. Guess we better start growing another one soon.