Daily Archives: March 11, 2012

A Tree Grew in Bethesda

Siberian Elm tree today

When we moved into our home nearly 20 years ago we were pleased to have a number of trees on our property. We had a ginkgo, two maple trees (one sugar and one red), a tulip poplar and a mulberry — probably female because it doesn’t bear fruit. We also had a small tree in the front yard that the local master gardener said was an unusual tree for this area. He later told me it was an Oxydendrum or Sourwood (which happens to be my favorite kind of honey).

Andrew hiding treeOne more tree grew in our yard — it was in the back next to the fence and could have been easily cut down with a hacksaw when we moved in. It was so small that baby Andrew’s head nearly covers it in the photo on the right. (click on the photo to make it larger)

The tree grew quickly and before long it was big enough for the kids to climb, which they did. They climbed much higher than they should have, but thankfully, neither of my children fell out of the tree.

A few years ago with help from my Peterson’s guide to trees of North America and the Internet, identified the tree as an Ulmus pumila or Siberian Elm. I’m pretty sure it was not planted by the previous owners, but was a volunteer tree.

The tree towers over the house now — nearly catching up to the tulip poplar in height. It casts a shadow over the back yard and nothing but weeds grow under it.

Now that the kids are away at college and have not climbed the tree in years and we’ve gotten rid of both the playset and trampoline, Dean wants to grow grass instead of weeds in the backyard. And I’d like to try to grow vegetables. We’ve got someone cutting it down right now, and to say I feel guilty is an understatement. I look out the window at the sugar maple and imagine it is quaking in fear that it will be next. I also sense a bit of resentment that we are murdering a backyard companion.

We’ll see if the loss of this tree brings more life to the back yard. I kind of doubt it, but I hope so. Then the tree may not have died in vain.