Tree of the Week is a new feature that will showcase some of the biggest and most beautiful trees in the GTA, as told to Megan Ogilvie. This week, Ellen Armstrong of Scarborough’s West Rouge neighbourhood tells us about her mammoth American elm tree, one of the few remaining large American elms in the city. The native species, once common in the area, was almost completely wiped out in the 1960s by Dutch elm disease.
This American elm is a focal point in our backyard, to say the least.
We’ve been in our home for more than 25 years but I still remember the first time I saw this tree on the day we came to look at the house. We loved the tree right away; it has so much character.
The house’s previous owners knew it was an American elm and were very proud of the tree. A few years after we moved in, we had an arborist come look at the tree and he explained to us how rare it is. We’ve done our best to take care of it, but it can get expensive.
This tree is 17 feet (about 5 m) around, measured at chest height, and I think it’s about six storeys high. It’s so tall that you can see its canopy from all around the neighbourhood.
A few times, we’ve been home and heard a knock on the door and arborists who have been working in the area have seen its canopy and wanted to come see the tree up close. They are astonished that it is still here.
During the big ice storm in 2013 we were really concerned that all the ice would take a toll on our tree. But it didn’t mind it at all; maybe it did well because of the way its branches arch and hang. As you can imagine, it was absolutely beautiful all covered in that shimmering ice.
It’s also beautiful at night, with its branches hanging down. It can also be spooky, too; you can hear it creaking, its limbs moving in the wind.
Other than being a beautiful focal point in our yard, this tree provides our house and yard with shade all summer long. Baltimore orioles make their nests in the hanging branches and every spring we watch mother raccoon and her babies make the very long climbs up and down the trunk.
We’re so happy this tree is still here. We feel very privileged to see it every day.