A Tree Grew in Bethesda

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 tree and a mulberry — probably male 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).

One 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)

Andrew hiding tree

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, I 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.

Siberian Elm tree today

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.

7 thoughts on “A Tree Grew in Bethesda

  1. I feel your pain. There’s something about taking out trees that feels so wrong, even when it’s the right thing to do. Many trees have been disappearing around here recently as the power company’s come through and cleared around the lines. It took me years to get rid of two bushes in front of my house that needed to go—I was both lazy and felt guilt and still couldn’t get them to look good. The neighbors were grateful when I finally took action. (I don’t have any trees at all by my house, though…I mean, ones that I own.)


  2. I can relate to your feelings of guilt. We have some huge, old macrocarpas at the entrance to our house. I love their sculptural nature, and the privacy they give us. But almost every storm we lose a few branches, and apparently they’re starting to rot from within. (As I said they’re old – the diameter is probably about 4-5 feet). The neighbours own one, and we own the other two. The neighbours are going to get in a crane which is needed to cut them down (huge, on a steep hill etc), and so it makes sense that ours go too (sharing cost of the crane). But I feel very sad about that … and I’m sure when it happens, I’ll feel guilty too.


  3. Yeah, the tree thing always seems a bit like murder to me. For the longest time I didn’t even want to remove any plants, until I realized if I didn’t start taking some out my yard would become weed central.


  4. My Dear: Where have you been all my life? I think you went a while without posting much (this was probably six months ago) and I got out of the habit of checking your site. Now I’m back, and I see what I’ve been missing! Thank you for all the effort you put into this, it is such a pleasure to read and so much I agree with!
    I’ve been feeling out of synch lately, and reading your posts helps me feel reconnected. Thanks again. Love, Catherine


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s