Commentary: A Farewell to Elms

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 15, 2005

In summer, when I step off my front porch, the only thing that protects me from the direct rays of the searing sun is the row of elm trees across the street. So, I was alarmed when death notices appeared on two of them. Like so many of Sacramento's old English Elms, they were diseased. 

A few weeks ago, workers gouged two inch wide rings around the lower trunks of the two sick ones. It's called girdling. It shuts down the trees’ vascular systems and prevents the spread of the disease to other nearby elms. Over the next few days, I watched the leaves on the two condemned trees turn brown as they slowly choked to death. Last week, the men with the chain saws arrived.

My old friends are gone now, and I miss them. They were planted early in the last century, and had stood graceful and silent guard on my street for longer than I or any of my neighbors have lived here - longer in fact that the neighbors we displaced.  

I don't blame the city for cutting them down. It was time. New trees will replace them. The city insists on that. They won't be elms though. Something hardier, no doubt - and disease resistant. It will be many years before the new trees will be tall enough to do what those now fallen elms did so well for so long.

Thank you, old friends, and farewell.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.