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2010 News Releases

175-year old American Elm tree to be removed

October 7, 2010

American elm tree at the corner of North Cunningham American elm tree at the corner of North Cunningham (August 2010)

Following the recommendation of Van Yahres Tree Company, Longwood University officials have announced that the American elm tree located at the corner of North Cunningham will be taken down during fall break, October 8-12.

In an email to the campus community, Dick Bratcher, vice president for facilities management and real property, said, "A recent inspection by Van Yahres Tree Company from Charlottesville indicates that the tree is hazardous to North Cunningham, its residents, and to the more than 2,500 students, faculty, and staff who pass near the tree each day."

In 2007, arborists from Van Yahres replaced the structural support cables in the crown of the tree and pruned damaged and diseased wood. The tree was also proactively treated for Dutch elm disease and fertilized.

"It is rare that American elm trees grow this large because they are susceptible to Dutch elm disease," said Bill Westerhoff, Longwood's ground supervisor and a certified arborist. The elm is estimated to be 175-200 years old.

In January 2010 a large limb fell from the tree and damaged the roof of North Cunningham. "This is called an 'out of the blue failure' of the limb structure," said Westerhoff. "This means that the limb fell for no apparent reason - the wind or other weather conditions did not contribute to the broken limb."

Elm tree showing typical cavities in crown that can lead to failure
Typical cavities in crown that can lead to failure (April 2010)

In April 2010 Van Yahres inspected the tree and a fall pruning was scheduled. However, over the summer the overall condition of the elm deteriorated rapidly due to the extreme hot and dry conditions. As a result, the tree lost most of its leaves earlier than usual.  According to Van Yahres, the leaves that are now on the tree are actually next year's growth.

Later this fall two new elm trees (crosses between American Elm and Chinese Elm) will be planted near the Blackwell Fountain. The new trees will be approximately 15 feet tall with branches of 8-10 feet. A ceremony to celebrate the life of the American elm and the planting of the new trees will be held at a later date.

Ideas for using the wood from the tree are currently being considered. Those who wish to submit ideas for use of the wood email wallermw@longwood.edu.