We have officially been marked. Branded. Condemned.
And along with the shocking scarlet letter, we received an official communication from the city of Fergus Falls, MN which notified us that the Tree Inspector had made his proclamation and, yes indeed, had found Dutch Elm Disease and furthermore – “In accordance with the municipal code, Chapter 6.71, and the Rules and Regulations of the State Department of Natural Resources, you are hereby notified that said marked tree must be removed from your property and properly disposed of within 60 (sixty) days of notification.”
It turns out that the city has a contract with a particular company which would remove the offender at $32.00 per diameter inch. At a calculated diameter of 37 inches, that adds up to $1184, plus the additional city tax (5.92) and sales tax (It was not clear if we were “selling” the disease to the city?) for a grand total of $1271.32. Fortunately Jesse, a friend of a friend, is the owner of 1st Choice Tree Care and agreed to do the deed for a mere $961.88.
I don’t know whether to be more upset about the inconvenient expense, or the loss of a noble tree.
Last year as the local forester made his rounds, and more and more ominous red slashes appeared here and there about town, I quivered and fretted about the fate of my favorite, my totem tree, which I look down upon from my meditation aerie.
True, it is a Siberian Elm, and therefore more resistant (but not entirely immune) to Dutch Elm disease, a fungal disease carried by certain beetles who lay eggs inside the bark. But I worried just the same. And didn’t breathe easily until I was certain we had passed the test.
For some reason I didn’t consider the possible fate of THIS particular elm, which arose out of the thicket from the lower garden. It was closely surrounded by other trees and shrubs, part of the natural habitat, and slightly out of sight and mind.
I’ve been more concerned about the Ash, which has become the favored stopover for the Emerald Ash Borers as they move with deadly force across the country. There are several ash trees here on Mt. Faith and it is the tree next in line to be decimated and/or marked in red. Whatever comes first.
In fact, our local newspaper reported just last month that the city planned to cut down all the ash trees that line our downtown blocks. Just in case. “The borer is coming.” He’s not here yet. But he will be.
The elm fungus began in Europe in 1910, reached the United States in 1928 in a shipment of logs from The Netherlands, and tromped into Minnesota sometime in 1970. It is not determined when the borer will arrive, but we know he’s on his way.
And all of this disease and slaughter could possibly have been kept in check by one simple solution. Diversification. Which means that instead of planting umpteen elms or ash trees, or for that matter coastal oaks (see Sudden Oak Death Syndrome in California and Oregon), all bunched together, we should have been offering up variety in our parks and along city boulevards. That way the fungi and the borers would not have been so likely to swoop in and gorge. They wouldn’t be calling their cousins and aunts to come to the feast on Main Street. They would be picking up take-out here and there, as they found it, and moving on.
And if tree and plant diversification is important for the horticultural health of communities, it occured to me that a cultural mix of humanity might have the same effect. Growing and living together. If I replace the new hole in the thicket, I’m thinking about a willow.