Spring is here and Novi will once again celebrate Arbor Day on Friday, April 29, at 2 p.m. in Pavilion Shore Park with a ceremonial tree planting. Novi’s commemorative Arbor Day 2022 tree will be a disease resistant cultivar of the American elm (Ulmus americana), which will be planted on the west end of Pavilion Shore Park near the playground.
In all, five American elms will be planted around the playground this spring to one day provide shade for Novi families. These days, only disease resistant cultivars of the formerly ubiquitous American elms are recommended for planting.
The deadly Dutch Elm Disease (DED) arrived in Oakland County in the mid-1900s and rapidly wiped out nearly all the native elm trees across Michigan. The fungal pathogen is spread from tree-to-tree via root grafts and elm bark beetles, which by themselves are more of a minor pest. The beetles are deadly disease vectors when carrying the DED fungus, however. Because of their tolerance of a wide variety of growing conditions, fast growth rate, and shapely crown which provides plenty of shade, American elm trees were one of the most frequently planted trees in Michigan through a time of widespread urban development. The introduction of DED and its ensuing devastation cleared thousands of miles of shady, tree-lined streets.
Today - in conjunction with the later-introduced emerald ash borer - DED must serve as a reminder that species diversity is vital toward the goal of managing resilient urban forests that can stand up to newly emerging threats.
See below for more information on the American elm:
- Native range: American elms are native to Michigan
- Size: Elms can grow to 60 – 80 feet tall with a crown spread of 40 – 70 feet at maturity.
- Life cycle: Elms have a fast growth rate and an expected lifespan of about 200 years in good conditions.
- Fall color: Golden yellow.
- Flower and fruit: Elms produce small, inconspicuous flowers and seeds enclosed in oval-shaped samaras dispersed by wind.
- Preferred conditions: Full sun and moist, well-draining soil is best, though elms can also thrive in wet or dry sites.
- Wildlife benefits: There are 187 native species of butterfly or moth that feed on the American elm, so it serves as an excellent foundation for food webs. It also serves as habitat and its seeds are eaten by some animals.
- Other uses: Elms are excellent shade trees, also boasting a stately shape and impressive fall color to lend ornamental interest. The tree’s lumber is commonly used to make furniture, crates, veneer, hockey sticks, and paper