[A2elm2.html (from .xml) ; last modified 11 October 2006]
[Steve Robbins' note, 11 October 2006. The article below, "Elusive Elm",was submitted to The Town Line. It was published with some minor editing, in: The Town Line (SouthChina, Maine), 14 September 2006, volume 18, number 37, page13, with the title "The elusiveslippery elm". The publishedversion omitted the "References" at the end of the article. Thepublished article also included a photograph (which is not reproduced here),with the caption: "East Vassalboroslippery elm photo taken by Stephen Robbins on July 7, 2004". Below is the text of the original uneditedarticle, last modified on 20 August 2006:]
Elusive Elm by Stephen L. Robbins
A rare Slippery Elm tree (scientific name Ulmus rubra Muhl) stands in EastVassalboro, on South Stanley Hill Road. For many years it has somehow eluded herbalists who could have strippedits medicinal inner bark and killed it. It has miraculously escaped the Dutch Elm Disease,which during the 1960s and 1970s killed off almost every American Elm (Ulmus americanus)in Vassalboro. This rugged tree survivedthe legendary Great Ice Storm of January 1998 which took off several branches,but those bare areas have now grown back some. This fortunate tree has also been spared fatal blows from careeningcars, snowplow wings and lightning strikes.
And until now, the tree has even evaded detection by theMaine Department of Conservation's Natural Areas Program. This Program is responsible for keeping an OfficialList of Endangered and Threatened Plants in Maine, updated every twoyears. This office in 2004 issued a RarePlant Fact Sheet about the Slippery Elm species, stating that it is
"Not known tocurrently exist in Maine; not field verified (or documented) in Maine over thepast 20 years. . . . . This rare plant has historically beendocumented from a total of 4 town(s) in the following county(ies): Franklin, Oxford, Somerset, York. Dates of documented observations are: 1892,1898, 1922, 1935. Reason(s) for rarity: At northern limit of range; always scarce inMaine, but possibly declined due to overuse. In the past the inner bark was used as a cough remedy and a scurvypreventative. Conservationconsiderations: Unknown; no current locations for this species aredocumented."
At the end of this Fact Sheet, is a plea: "Ifyou know of locations for this plant . . . please contact the Natural AreasProgram . . .". So I did. On July 22, 2006 I clicked the "Email Us" button on their website, and sent a message on their email form:
<http://mainenaturalareas.org/docs/contact_information/email.php>. I wrote that East Vassalboro'sslippery elm was measured in 1995 and has ever since been listed in thebiennial Maine Register of Big Trees, published by Maine Department ofConservation's Forest Service. I alsoasked the Natural Areas Program for their comments, to be included in thisarticle. So far, they have notresponded.
East Vassalboro's slippery elmstill appears in the 2005-2006 Maine Register of Big Trees, which meansit is the largest slippery elm in the state. Could it also be the last survivor of its kind in Maine? It has been listed in the Registersince 1995, when nominated by owner Prudence Gray, and measured by Universityof Maine forestry professor Wallace Robbins. Mr. Robbins grew up in East Vassalboro on the farm just north of thisslippery elm. The measurements:
circumference: 201 inches
height: 97 feet
crown spread: 97 feet
total points: 322
Most states maintain a register of their biggest"champion" trees of each species. The measurement standards are given by the American Forestsorganization, publisher of the National Register of Big Trees:
Circumference (in inches) at 4 1/2 feet above ground.
Height (in feet), calculated by a stick method or with a forester'sinstrument (such asAbney hand level, clinometer, hypsometer, laser, relascope, or transit).
AverageCrown Spread (in feet) is the averageof: (a) the widest distance across thetree's drip line, plus (b) the crown spread at 90 degrees from the widest.
TotalPoints = Circumference (inches) + Total Tree Height (feet) + one-fourth of the AverageCrown Spread (feet).
East Vassalboro's unique tree (322points) is the fifth largest slippery elm among all the documented statechampions, only behind specimens in Maryland (358), Indiana (357.38), WestVirginia (327) and Michigan (324).
It would take three tree-huggers to fully embrace the trunkof East Vassalboro's slippery elm (circumference 201inches). Perhaps tree-huggers will beneeded to protect our tree from the recent rise of "wildcrafting"herbalists who would strip the inner bark (the tree's lifeblood), then dry andpowder it for herbal medicine. Alreadythis summer, six "poachers" have been arrested for stripping slipperyelm bark in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky, according to an August10, 2006 Associated Press article.
What does Vassalboro's slipperyelm contribute to the environment? Its"ecosystem services" are likely similar to those of Maryland'snational champion slippery elm, which have been calculated by American Forests:
"It would cost $2711.5 to replace the storm water control service provided by thistree, based on the engineering standards used in the building industry. The same tree removes 15.35 lbs. of nitrogen, sulfur, ozone and particulate matter everyyear."
Next time you take a drive up South Stanley Hill Road inEast Vassalboro, see if you can spy our rare treasure, that elusive slipperyelm.
2005-2006 Maine Register of Big Trees. Maine. Department ofConservation. Forest Service. Accessed 22 July 2006. <http://mainegov-images.informe.org/doc/mfs/projectcanopy/pages/resource/pubs/pdfs/bigtrees_2005.pdf>
Big Tree Measuring Guide. American Forests. Accessed 22 July 2006.
BigTrees of West Virginia. Revised October 9,2002 . Greater Athens [Ohio] Sustainability Project. Accessed 13 August 2006.
Database for Michigan [Big Trees].Revised March 26, 2006. Michigan Botanical Club. [Could not open this zipped Excel file on 22 July 2006]. <http://www.michbotclub.org/big_trees/searchable_database.htm> [Data from this file was supplied via emailfrom Elwood "Woody" Ehrle, Michigan BigTree Coordinator <email@example.com>(08 August 2006)].
Indiana Big Tree Register, 2005. April 2005. Indiana.Department of Natural Resources. Divisionof Forestry. Accessed13 August 2006. <http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/pdfs/bigtree2005.pdf>
Jafari, Samira. "Slippery Elm Trees Stripped of Bark forHerbal Potions". South BendTribune (South Bend, Indiana), Thursday, 10 August 2006, Metro edition,page A3.
Maryland Big Tree Program : State Champions, 2005. March 7, 2005. Maryland. Department of Natural Resources.Forest Service. Accessed 13 August 2006.
Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants. 2004. Maine. Department of Conservation. Natural Areas Program. Accessed 22 July 2006. <http://mainenaturalareas.org/docs/rare_plants/>
Robbins, Gerald L., telephone interview. 19August 2006; East Vassalboro, Maine. Notes held in 2006 by interviewer, Stephen L. Robbins; 1660 West LakeStreet, Warsaw, Indiana 46580-2494.
"Slippery Elm : Ulmus rubra". National Register of BigTrees. AmericanForests. Accessed22 July 2006.
Ulmus rubra Muhl : Slippery Elm. (Rare Plant Fact Sheet ;PDULM04090). May 17, 2004. Maine. Department ofConservation. Natural Areas Program. Accessed 22 July 2006. <http://www.mainenaturalareas.org/docs/rare_plants/links/factsheets/ulmusrubra.pdf>
[Steve Robbins' note, 11 October 2006. In response to the published article, DonCameron of the Maine Natural Areas Program wrote a letter to the editor of TheTown Line. Mr. Cameron's letterappeared in The Town Line, 05 October 2006, volume 18, number 40, page6. The text of the published letterappears below:]
Slippery Elm in Vassalboro
To the editor:
Thank youto Stephen Robbins for calling attention to the slippery elm tree growing offSouth Stanley Hill Road in Vassalboro. It is a monumental tree and is noteworthy as the largest known exampleof its kind in the state.
The MaineNatural Areas Program (MNAP) tracks and promotes the protection of naturaloccurrences of rare plants throughout the state and slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)is on our list of tracked species. Slippery elm is currently considered a historic species in Maine, sinceit has not been observed occurring naturally anywhere in the state in the past20 years. We visited the South StanleyHill Road site and do not consider the slippery elm there to be naturallyoccurring as it is growing within a few feet of building in a landscapedsetting. The natural habitat for thisspecies in New England is moist rich floodplains or dry forested sites withthin soils over limestone.
Each year,a few species that are listed as historic are rediscovered by staff at MNAP orby professional and amateur botanists. If you know of a natural occurrence of slippery elm or any other plantspecies listed as rare in Maine please contact our Botanist, Don Cameron at287-8041 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of rare plants in Maine visit ourweb site: http://www.mainenaturalareas.org/docs/rare_plants/links/plant_list.pdf or contactDon Cameron.
Maine Natural Areas Program
Maine Department of Conservation