THE LOSS OF AN ICON. Saratoga Springs is losing another of its few remaining historic American elms. One of the most majestic, and certainly the most visible of our city’s few remaining large native elms died suddenly last summer, most likely another victim of Dutch elm disease. Towering above the northwest corner of Broadway and Van Dam Street, where it has welcomed every visitor arriving from Exit 15, this tree is scheduled for removal soon by the tree crew in the City’s Department of Public Works (DPW). City Arborist Steve Lashomb will manage the complex operation. Ironically, the announcement about plans to take down this titanic heritage tree coincided with Sustainable Saratoga’s Tree Toga event, when their volunteers planted 15 trees throughout the city, including 2 disease-resistant American elms.
Saratoga once was home to hundreds of American elms, the most graceful and beloved street tree of them all. During the city’s Victorian heyday, elms lined both sides of Broadway. The arrival of the Dutch elm disease midway through the 20th century wiped out all but a handful of these beloved trees. With this new loss, the only large old specimens left on or near Broadway are those in front of the Roohan Realty building, behind the Collamer Building near Maple Ave, in Congress Park near the Casino, and on South Broadway near Lincoln Ave (Click here for a map).
The big Broadway elm must be removed as soon as possible, because elm bark beetles breed in sick or recently killed elms. These tiny beetles fly to feed on healthy elms, carrying the spores of the deadly Dutch elm disease fungus with them. The DPW has expressed interest in taking effective measures to protect the remaining large City-owned elms, including inoculating them against future infections and quickly pruning or removing any infected elms.
After the near disappearance of the stately American elm from city streets, the DPW planted a variety of European and Asian hybrids that were developed as substitutes. In recent years, a number of disease-resistant American elm cultivars have become more commercially available. Sustainable Saratoga has assisted DPW in its effort to re-establish this iconic tree on our city streets through a program of limited and targeted planting. If these cultivars prove sufficiently resistant over time, they may grow to take a prominent place in Saratoga’s diverse and resilient urban forest.