Thursday, May 17, 2018

The elms of Central Park

The Central Park Mall with elm trees
I've lived a block away from Central Park for two years now and I had no idea there was a "Chess and Checkers House" near the Zoo and the Dairy (they have no milk at the Dairy) some of the favorite sights in the Park. You hang out in the Chess and Checkers House and play those games with the sets provided. Not that I'm a huge fan of either game but it's nice to know.

Of course now I am required to know it since I signed up to be a volunteer. It takes hours of classes, tours etc. to become a Central Park volunteer if you want to do something beyond clean-up work. They take their Central Park volunteers seriously. So I took one of the Central Park tours today ("Iconic Views of Central Park") and learned some fun facts.

I've learned lots of interesting new facts about the Park since beginning the volunteer training. The most interesting so far is that the Mall, the straight shot in the south of the Park that leads to the Bethesda Fountain, is one of the largest stand of elm trees in North America, thanks to Dutch elm disease. According to the Wiki:
The disease was first reported in the United States in 1928, with the beetles believed to have arrived in a shipment of logs from The Netherlands destined for use as veneer in the Ohio furniture industry. Quarantine and sanitation procedures held most cases within 150 miles of metropolitan New York City until 1941 when war demands began to curtail them.[29] The disease spread from New England westward and southward, almost completely destroying the famous elms in the "Elm City" of New Haven, Connecticut, reaching the Detroit area in 1950,[30] the Chicago area by 1960, and Minneapolis by 1970. Of the estimated 77 million elms in North America in 1930, over 75% had been lost by 1989.[31]
The most interesting aspect of the Central Park elms is that not only does the Park try to plant the most resistant strains of elm, but also the Park constantly monitors the trees for signs of disease, and immediately treats them if the disease appears.

The entire Park depends on constant maintenance, but the elms require even more maintenance than the rest of the Park.