Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest American Elm

Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest American Elm

Article excerpt

So far the dreaded fungus hasn't crossed the Kansas plains to where this patriarch stands in regal isolation.

Kansas is better known for its amber waves of grain than for towering trees, but its only state forest boasts the largest average tree size east of California. Established a few years ago, the Louis Vieux State Forest is a unique old-growth forest in which every single tree is a national champion. Okay, so there's only one tree in this forest, which stretches across all of half an acre, but that one tree, an American elm, is indeed a champion.

More than perhaps any other tree, the American elm is entwined in our nation's history. Historic elms have been associated with William Penn, George Washington, Chief Logan, and Abraham Lincoln, to name only a few. In fact, it was an interest in history that led Ted Cunningham to discover the champion at a site where pioneers, following the Oregon Trail, forded the Vermillion River and paid a dollar toll to cross the land owned by Louis Vieux.

Ironically, the champion owes its regal status to Dutch elm disease, the bane of most of the nation's American elm trees. Dutch elm disease is caused by a fungus that hitchhikes from tree to tree on a tiny bark beetle. …

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