Celebrating the Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia)

IMG_0043aSally and I celebrated the Fourth of July with our daughter and son-in-law in Oklahoma City.  While there, we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.  What a lovely and moving place.  Things like this make me so proud to be an American.  I truly believe that there has never been another group of people that can better come together after a tragedy and turn it into a silver lining.  While there is no doubt that what Timothy McVeigh did on that April day was horrible, the people of Oklahoma rose above it and created a lovely and peaceful place that memorializes those lost and celebrates the sacrifice of the volunteers that turned the horror of that day into a place where all can celebrate the indomitable American Spirit.

Each of these beautiful chairs memorialize on of the victims of this senseless tragedy

Each of these beautiful chairs memorialize one of the victims of this senseless tragedy

Two minutes after Timothy McVeigh lit the fuse of his bomb, 168 men, women and small children were gone; so was the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  An additional 300 buildings in the downtown area were damaged.  About the only thing left standing at the blast site was a large American Elm tree that is now called “The Survivor’s Tree”.  This tree is now the center piece of a horticultural tribute to resilience of the American people.

This Elm tree was about the only thing to survive the blast. The "Survivor Tree" is a testamnet to the reseliance of the human spirit.

This Elm tree was about the only thing to survive the blast. The “Survivor Tree” is a testamnet to the reseliance of the human spirit.

Elm trees in general are incredibly hardy trees.  One example in Ontario, Canada grew to 140’ tall. Elms can take extreme cold, extreme heat and endure extreme drought.  At the beginning of the last century they were the most commonly planted tree in America.  However, around 1928, disaster struck in the form of a small black beetle that spread a fungus called “Dutch Elm” disease.  This disease decimated elm populations that had no resistance to this Asian invader.  Dutch Elm Disease is still a serious problem.  However, if you have the money, there are now treatments that can save an infected elm if the infection is caught soon enough.

If you are a Texan and you have an affinity for these hardy trees, you are in luck.  Texas has a native elm that is very resistant to Dutch Elm  Disease.  In fact, the Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia) is resistant to most pests.  While its leaves are sometimes nibbled by the Elm Leaf Beetles, there is not much else that bothers it.  This cedar elm makes a great shade tree and it is extremely drought tolerant.

This lovely print is courtesy of the Texas A&M Forsetry Service Tree Planting Guide at: http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/Display_Onetree.aspx?tid=100

This lovely print is courtesy of the Texas A&M Forsetry Service Tree Planting Guide at:
http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/Display_Onetree.aspx?tid=100

According to my friend Morgan McBride of Tree Town USA, cedar elms are a great choice for most Texas landscapes.  These lovely trees are covered in small, oval, serrated leaves that are rough to the touch and turn yellow in the fall.  They can grow in sandy soils and in thick clay soils.  In fact they can even grow in the highly compacted soils that are common in urban areas.  These adaptable trees have a moderate growth rate and only require a moderate amount of water to thrive.  They can grow to 60’ tall and develop a spread of over 40’.

Cedar elms develop a deep root system that allows them to withstand drought and most windstorms.  If you go to a nursery and ask for an elm for your yard, you need to insist on the cedar elm.  Many nurseries stock the Chinese Lacebark Elm and will often offer it as a substitute.  While the tree does have a lovely rough bark, it develops a shallow root system that makes it easy prey for windstorms.  Also, the Chinese Lacebark is susceptible to cotton root rot.  Because of this, you are taking a risk if you plant it anywhere in our state that once grew cotton (and since most of our state once grew cotton, you really need to think about this when you make your elm choice).

My buddy Morgan is selecting a Cedar Elm for a client.  Notice that he really is touching it with a 10' pole.  Don't know why that is so funny to me but he really does travel around with a 10' pole in his car at all times.

My buddy Morgan is selecting a Cedar Elm for a client. Notice that he really is touching it with a 10′ pole. Don’t know why that is so funny to me but he really does travel around with a 10′ pole in his car at all times.

Like the people of Oklahoma, elm trees were attacked and decimated by an unexpected enemy.  However, they survived.  Now this American classic is making a comeback.  I love elm trees and I am so glad that the people of Oklahoma saved their “The Survivor Tree”.  This deep rooted, dependable and resilient tree is the perfect centerpiece for a memorial that is dedicated to faith, healing and the resilience of the American spirit.

This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop and the Homestead Barn Hop.  These hops are great way to gather information from some of the best bloggers on the web.  Be sure to check it out!

This is a detail of a large statue that stands on the site of the old rectory of St. Joseph Catholic Church.  the rectory was destroyed in the blast.  This statue is called "Jesus Wept" and it based on the shortest verse in the bible; John 11:35

This is a detail of a large statue that stands on the site of the old rectory of St. Joseph Catholic Church in OKC. The rectory was destroyed by the April 19 bombing. This statue is called “Jesus Wept” and it is based on the shortest verse in the bible; John 11:35

6 thoughts on “Celebrating the Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia)

  1. Jay, we were passing through OKC on July 3rd where we visited the memorial and also admired “The Survivor Tree”. I appreciate your photos and comments and am so glad you took the time to write about it here.
    I love cedar elms as well – and their small leaves are great for compost piles and mulch!

    • Thanks Patty! Great tip on the leaves. Wouldn’t that have been amazing if we would have bumped into each other there? I bet Bruce got much better pictures. We got there and discovered I had gone off and left the camera’s battery on the charger — in Brenham!!!

  2. I so enjoyed reading this article. It is so well written and interesting to read as all your posts are. You have a real talent with words. I’ll plan for Lyle and me to visit the memorial on one of our trips to Ponca City to see Brian and his family. We have two Cedar Elms in our front yard so I was thrilled to read what good and hardy trees they are.

  3. Jay,
    I’ve recently become a fan of the ” Cedar Elm”. Certainly didn’t know of its deep rooted nature nor of its natural hardiness until I read your article.
    I have a small farm in Marietta, Ok where I’m planning on growing some trees from liners. Now, I’m including Cedar Elms in my stock, do you have other suggestions?
    Duane Baccus

    • Glad you are picking the cedar elm. It really is a great tree. Some other great trees for your area include the bur oak. It is a a very hardy tree and a fast grower. It does have big acorns though and some people don’t like that. Here is the link to an article I wrote about it if you want to learn more: http://masterofhort.com/?s=bur+oak. Both the Chinquapin and Shumard Red Oak will do very well for you. Finally, I love Bald Cypress. Hope this helps.

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