What Moisture Level Should Wood Be Before Using For Furniture The American Elm Tree, The Tree of the Future

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The American Elm Tree, The Tree of the Future

If you are a gardener, you plant for the future. Every time you put a seed, bulb, plant or tree into the ground, you’re putting your belief in something special’s future growth and development. You understand with perennials, for example, they may spread and grow long after you’re gone. So why not invest in an American Elm, a tree for the future?

History of the American Elm

When the early settlers first came to America, they discovered the American Elm tree. Through trial and err, they found its extremely hard and durable wood could be used both for lumber and furniture making. The wood was flexible enough, when steamed and bent, to even be used to make rocking chairs, barrels and wheel hoops. The Native Americans in the area also used the elm tree to build canoes for their forays on the water.

Unfortunately, in the 1930’s, beetles infected the elm trees with Dutch Elm Disease, a deadly fungus. When the fungus enters the tree, it reproduces in the parts of the tree which conduct water to the stems and branches. The fungus works by blocking water movement to the leaves of the tree. Consequently, the leaves wilt and die. This nasty fungus can kill a mature tree of 100 feet within a time span of two or four years. Also because of the shallow root system where the roots of other elms can touch, Dutch Elm Disease can spread to other elms very easily. So the American Elm was almost wiped out.

Facts about the American Elm

The American Elm is a beautiful majestic tree. It’s a fast growing tree and can reach up to 100 feet in height. The width of a mature elm in its glorious branches is almost as wide. An elm at the height of its maturity can have a trunk span of almost 7 feet around. It has a shape like an urn, with a spreading crown of symmetrical branches at the top. The bark is an interesting feature, dark grayish brown in color with many broad ridges and unique diamond ahead fissures. The leaf is about 3-5 inches long. It has double serrated margins, 1 to 3 inches wide and has about 15 pairs of veins. The front of the leaf is green and smooth to the touch, while the underside is pale and has a downy feel to it. The elm does have fruit which develops in clusters on long brown stems. The seed from the elm is oblong with notches at the peak and it’s covered in a papery skin. An elm tree prefers a PH of 5.5 to 8.0 and rich, well-drained soil. However, it will also grow in compacted soil or soil which is poorly drained and in full sun or part shade. It does like wetlands and moist areas but will adapt and thrive in urban conditions. It will grow in Zones 2 through 9.

A New Future

Although the damage to the American Elm was massive and almost wiped the species out, there is hope. The Princeton American Elm is breathing new life back into the species. DNA tests have shown the Princeton Elm has come from a 280 year old American Elm tree. This tree is in the Princeton cemetery and Vice President Aaron Burr rests beneath it. This American Elm is highly resistant to the Dutch Elm disease. The Princeton is also resistant to the elm leaf beetle, another pest. So there have been cuttings taken to start new elm trees to spread the American Elm. A cutting is used because the Princeton Elms’ genetic resistance can be passed down through the lineage. If seedlings are used, there is a chance the resistance wouldn’t be passed down otherwise. The Princeton has the beautiful American Elm urn shape and has the best form of all the Ulmus cultivars.

What can you do?

You can plant an American Elm tree for the future. These trees are extremely large so give it plenty of room. If you plant several, space them 20-50 feet apart. Use 3-6 inches of organic mulch to help maintain moisture levels. Avoid placing the mulch against the tree truck so the tree doesn’t rot. Prune the tree once a year and remove dead or dying branches when the tree is young. As the tree matures, prune it less and don’t prune it all during growing season. Use the correct fertilizer and if you’re not sure what that is, ask a professional.

Gardeners are the caretakers of the past and the guardians of the future. Please do your part by making sure this beautiful tree is here for generations to come.

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