LANESBOROUGH — When you're over 200 years old, sometimes you have to take your medicine.

For "King Elmer," one of the largest remaining elm trees in Massachusetts, that was the case Thursday morning, when it received a fungicide treatment to prevent Dutch elm disease.

In the 1960s, Dutch elm disease nearly wiped out the once-thriving American elm tree population in Berkshire County, leaving only a handful of survivors and a swath of "Elm Streets" that don't bear witness to their name.

But, King Elmer survived the wave of death, growing to become a "champion tree," meaning its massive dimensions distinguish it among other trees of its species. At 107 feet high and more than 5 feet thick, its grand canopy looms over the intersection of Route 7 and Summer Street.

Jim Neureuther, chairman of the Lanesborough tree committee, aims to help King Elmer maintain its champion status. That's why he and his colleagues applied for a challenge grant through the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which provided half of the approximately $1,200 it cost to medicate King Elmer. The other half was obtained through private donations and some town money.

"A tree this big has now become part of Lanesborough," Neureuther said, noting that measurements suggest that the tree could be as old as the town itself. "It's just kind of a nice thing to think that King Elmer's been watching the town go since it was formed."

Workers from Race Mountain Tree Services strung tubes around the base of the tree Wednesday morning, injecting 66 almost quarter-inch holes in King Elmer. They then pumped a mixture of water and fungicide into the tree's xylems, the vascular tissue that transports water throughout a plant.

It's through the same tissue that Dutch elm spreads, clogging the flow of water and essential nutrients through the tree. To ward off Dutch elm, a tree should be injected every 28 to 36 months, Neureuther said.

Even with Thursday's boost, though, King Elmer's reign might come to an end within a half-century.

"He's seen better years, for sure," said Ron Yaple, the owner of Race Mountain Tree Services who administered the fungicide injection.

Still, investing in the tree's health is worth it, Yaple said, noting that King Elmer wouldn't go down easy if it fell.

"It would create a hell of a mess," he said.

Practicality aside, there also is an aesthetic argument to be made by biophiles like Yaple.

"I often say to people, `If you want to buy a nice cluster of a dozen roses for your mother, you're going to spend 50 bucks for this tiny thing that's going to die on the counter in less than two weeks,'" Yaple said, "and here's this living monarch of unbelievable size and stature from any angle coming up and down this street it just blows your mind."

Jack Lyons can be reached at or at 802-734-4408. Follow him on Twitter at @JackLyonsND.