In Utah, trees are not usually the central part of our landscape. The first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of Utah is not trees but desert.
However, Utah — especially Ogden — is home to some trees that have gone almost extinct on the East Coast and in parts of the rest of the United States: elms.
Elm trees in Ogden Canyon have recently been found to have Dutch elm disease, a tree infection spread by bark beetles. This infection has no cure and can spread through trees very easily.
In our area, one place to see a lot of elm trees today is Ogden’s Municipal Gardens. This park in the center of Ogden, surrounding the Municipal Building at 2549 Washington Blvd., is a prominent place in the city: Christmas Village is held there in the wintertime, and the Ogden Farmers Market in the summertime.
The square is lined by elms that are hundreds of years old. These same type of large trees also once lined the area surrounding the historic Harvard college in Massachusetts. Most of the elm trees on the Harvard campus have been replaced by native species, but they once were a large part of the college’s identity.
Elm trees are good for gathering places because of their unusually long trunks and thick canopies. You can see past them at eye level, so the trees add a feeling of inclusivity, but they also give a lot of shade. It is hard to find any trees good for gathering spaces to replace the diseased elms, so we should enjoy them while they last.
With careful maintenance, elm trees can be kept alive. But as in the example of the Harvard trees, even with the most careful prevention, the disease, along with other pests, still kills trees. Trees can be injected with a kind of vaccine that can protect them from Dutch elm disease, but it only works if that tree does not already have the disease, and it is not always effective. The trees on the Harvard campus have been treated with this kind of vaccine, and still their numbers have decreased to almost none.
While the elm trees of Ogden may have a bad fate ahead, it is important that we, as teens, see them and enjoy them while they are still prevalent in this area.
I suggest that you walk in your local park and see if you find any trees with the elm’s characteristic long trunk and oval-shaped leaves with saw-toothed edges — because we could be one of the last generations to see them.