The Boston Parks and Recreation Department has announced that three elm trees in the Public Garden will be removed this weekend due to Dutch elm disease. The removals are to prevent the disease from spreading to healthy trees.
The three elms are located along the Boylston Street side of the park. All are approximately 100 years old with diameter-at-breast-height (dbh) measurements in excess of 40 inches.
The removals are scheduled to take place this Saturday, July 23. While the removal of the elms is a loss for the park, it is not unprecedented. Six trees have been removed from the Public Garden and the nearby Commonwealth Avenue Mall so far this year. As Boston Parks Commissioner Antonia M. Pollak explained, such action is by no means unusual when Dutch elm disease is present.
“The trees will be replaced over time,” Pollak noted. “For us it’s sad, of course, to lose such grand old trees, but at the same time this is a typical number of removals during the year due to Dutch elm disease.”
“These are enormous trees, part of the majestic row of elms that shade the path along Boylston Street and form graceful arches over four major pieces of sculpture. Whenever a tree of this magnitude and presence in a park landscape is lost, it is deeply felt by us all,” said Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director of the organization.
In partnership with the Parks Department, the Friends have led a four decades-long fight in the three downtown historic parks – the Public Garden, Boston Common, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall – against Dutch elm disease. The disease is spread by the elm bark beetle, but also travels underground by root graft from tree to tree. Because of this, the trees slated for removal have been treated with a fungicide this week in order to suppress the spread of the fungus to adjacent trees.
Two-thirds of the Friend’s $1.2 million annual budget goes directly into the parks, a significant portion of which is for care of the park’s trees. The elms are injected with a costly fungicide that helps them fight Dutch elm disease. The most vulnerable elm in our parks is the American elm, the English elm being the next most vulnerable. The elms along the Garden’s Boylston Street border are Belgian elms, a hybrid form, which is disease resistant. Every elm in the three parks is monitored on a yearly basis, and up to now these elms have never shown signs of infection. Of the 50 elms in the Garden, the 20 most vulnerable ones have been treated every year. Now, every elm in the Garden and elms on the adjacent streets will be treated.